Labour is prepared to vote down any Brexit deal Theresa May strikes with Brussels, according to a senior shadow cabinet member.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry underlined on Friday that her party set out six tests for Brexit and said it was “just not going to happen” that a deal based on the prime minister’s Chequers plan meets them.
The only agreement Labour MPs would back, the key Jeremy Corbyn ally told the FT, was one that delivers the “exact same benefits” of the UK’s current membership of the single market and customs union.
Should Labour join with Tory rebels in sufficient numbers to vote down the deal in Parliament, May could face a vote of no confidence and be forced to call an early general election.
Referring to the Chequers proposal, which would see the EU leave the customs union and single market but sign up to a “common rule book” on goods and a customs arrangement, Thornberry said: “I don’t think this kind of half-in, half-out of the customs union will work.
“I think it’s just full of red tape and it’s going to cost us too much money. It’s just nonsense.
“Even if they come back in October, November, and they say, ‘this flimsy bit of paper is what you’re going to have to agree to, otherwise there’ll be no deal’. We’re not going to agree to either of those.”
Thornberry added that she “can’t see [the government] coming back with a deal that is going to meet our six tests” or one that would unite Tory rebels.
She added: “They are not capable of governing .
“We’re either going to have a general election in the autumn or we’re going to have it in the spring.”
Senior Labour figures have said that the party’s policy is to consider “all options”, including a second referendum on Brexit, if Parliament rejects the government’s Brexit deal.
Thornberry said that she preferred a general election to a re-run of the vote, however.
She said. “If there was a vote tomorrow, I would vote to remain in the European Union . But above all, I’m a democrat.”
The PM is due to hold a summit with EU leaders in Salzburg next week and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab today spoke with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on the phone.
He said: “While there remain some substantive differences we need to resolve, it is clear our teams are closing in on workable solutions to the outstanding issues in the Withdrawal Agreement, and are having productive discussions in the right spirit on the future relationship.
“Looking ahead, we agreed to review the state of play in the negotiations following the informal meeting of heads of state or government of the European Union in Salzburg next Thursday.
“And we reiterated our willingness to devote the necessary time and energy to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion.”
Labour has said there has been no official change of policy following the shadow foreign secretary’s interview.
Labour’s six tests for a Brexit deal are:
Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?
Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?
Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?