Abbott: Labour is committed to honouring Brexit vote

Diane Abbott has insisted Labour is “committed to honouring” the Brexit vote despite backbench warnings that it will “damage” the communities they represent.

The shadow home secretary said her party campaigned in 2016 on “remain and reform” of the EU and pushed for a “jobs-first Brexit” at the 2017 general election.

She also outlined her “immaculate record” of voting against measures which enabled further EU integration, as she told the Commons she would not take “lectures” from Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

But Ms Abbott maintained Labour’s opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, claiming it treats issues of safety and security with a “degree of recklessness”.

Her remarks came the day after Environment Secretary Michael Gove called Labour’s Brexit policy “bollocks”.

Speaking on the third day of the re-started Brexit deal debate, Ms Abbott said: “I want to stress for Members on this side of the House (Labour) that we are committed to honouring the referendum vote, and more than that we understand what moved so many millions of our fellow citizens to vote for Brexit.”

Labour backbencher Mike Gapes (Ilford South), intervening, said: “She says we are committed to honouring the referendum vote – does she mean we will support Brexit even if it damages the very communities that we as Labour Members of Parliament represent?”

To laughter, Ms Abbott replied: “I’d like to thank my honourable friend for his helpful intervention.

“Actually, the position of the Labour Party was set out in the manifesto which both he and I campaigned on.

“We are committed to a jobs-first Brexit which will not harm our economy. But I repeat, we want to honour the referendum vote.”

On security matters, Ms Abbott highlighted a letter from ex-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove and former head of the armed forces Field Marshal Lord Guthrie which warned that Mrs May’s deal would threaten national security.

She said: “We believe that this deal treats issues of safety and security with a degree of recklessness.”

Mr Javid said he has a “great deal of respect” for Sir Richard and Lord Guthrie but added: “On this particular issue, in this letter, they are wrong – there is nothing in this deal that changes our relationship with Nato, with our US allies as intelligence partners, or indeed with our wider Five Eyes partners. Nothing at all.”

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid

He earlier told MPs that EU citizens resident in the UK would be able to continue to live their lives “much as they do now” post-Brexit.

He said: “We value their significant contribution to the UK and whatever happens, as we said many times before, we want them to stay. We know how important our EU friends are to our economy, to our society, to our families, to our history and also to our future.”

He added: “Our message to EU citizens throughout is clear: deal or no deal, we want you to stay.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who wrapped up the third day of debate for Labour, later mocked the Tory post-Brexit vision for the UK as the “invisible chain” linking countries across the globe.

The Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had not realised The Invisible Chain was also the Spanish title for the film Lassie Come Home.

To laughter, she added: “It’s no wonder the Foreign Secretary’s vision of the invisible chain has been so enthusiastically embraced by his dog-loving Cabinet colleagues.

“The Health Secretary with his invisible green paper on social care, the Transport Secretary with his invisible ferries and his invisible traffic jams, and of course the Prime Minister running around Europe obtaining invisible concessions on Brexit.”

Mr Hunt responded saying Lassie was one of his “favourite childhood films”, adding: “Lassie of course in that story was given to a member of the aristocracy, in fact the Duke of Rudling, but Lassie wasn’t happy and she broke free without any kind of referendum and she came home, there is a lesson for all of us.”

The Foreign Secretary rounded off the debate by telling MPs that Brexit would “restore sovereign control over immigration policy”.

He also told Labour to “stop playing parliamentary games” and to back Mrs May’s deal.

The debate on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is due to return to the Commons on Monday.