A senior Labour politician in Brussels has accused pro-Brexit newspapers of “panicking” over the prospect of not quitting the European Union after producing “silly and contrived” reports claiming he was attempting to “sabotage” the move.
Richard Corbett, deputy leader of Labour’s MEPs, today responded to “the simultaneous attacks” by the Sun, Telegraph and Express newspapers that argued he had “altered” “official reports” that would pave the way for Britain to quit by adding they “should not stand in the way of any reconsideration by the UK of its intended departure”.
Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith accused the Labour MEP of “ignoring the will of the British people”, and Ukip said it was “typical of the sneaky, ‘say one thing, do another’ attitude of the modern-day Labour Party”.
But Corbett says, in reality, he had attempted to add an amendment to a report - not legislation - which had no bearing on the UK quitting the EU, only the future of the bloc.
The MEP said he was striving for “legal accuracy”, but also made clear he did not think the EU should stand in the way of the UK wanting to stay in the EU if it changed its mind. He wrote on his website:
“The EU should not – and anyway cannot – force Britain to reconsider (leaving the EU), but it equally should not prevent any such reconsideration. If Britain did change its mind, they should respect that and not throw us out by claiming that Article 50 is irreversible.”
Adding how insignificant to Brexit his move was, he said:
“Quite how amendments to (a European Parliament) committee report looking at future options for Europe could somehow interfere with internal British procedures is, of course, not explained.
“But it IS clearly an indication of how fearful the Brexit camp have become over the idea that people may demand their rights to reconsider.
“They are alarmed that, as the cost of Brexit emerges, people who voted Leave might say, ‘hang on a minute, we were told this would save us money (which would go to the NHS), not cost us an arm and a leg’.
“They are clearly in a panic!”