UK opposition figures tell Barnier of ‘cross-party resistance’ to Tory Brexit
Representatives of four opposition parties have told EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier that there is “cross-party resistance” at Westminster to the withdrawal deal being pursued by Theresa May.
They accused the Labour leadership of waving through a “destructive” Tory Brexit, but told the Brussels official that “sensible politicians” from all parties still believe the UK’s departure from the EU should not be taken for granted.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable urged Mr Barnier to start making plans to respond to a “People’s Vote” in the UK, telling him that supporters of a second Brexit referendum now make up the “biggest and most cohesive bloc in Westminster”.
Along with Sir Vince, the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and Green MEP Molly Scott Cato held talks with the EU negotiator for an hour at his Brussels office.
Sir Vince, Ms Saville Roberts and Ms Scott Cato informed the him of their parties’ support for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, while Mr Blackford set out the SNP preference for the UK to stay in the single market and customs union.
In a joint statement following the meeting, the four opposition figures said: “In a constructive hour-long meeting with Michel Barnier, we emphasised that there is a cross-party resistance in Westminster to the destructive Brexit being pursued by the Tories.
“We also pointed out that this is being waved through by the Labour frontbench, but no majority exists in Parliament for the current Brexit trajectory.
“With sensible politicians from all parties uniting, we pointed out to Mr Barnier that there is a genuine cross-party consensus that our exit from the European Union must not be assumed.”
Sir Vince said: “My message to Michel Barnier was clear: it’s time to start serious contingency planning for a People’s Vote. We know the UK Government has started making such plans as a result of the growing demand for such a vote, demonstrated by last weekend’s march.
“The EU should do the same, because MPs who back the People’s Vote are fast forming the biggest and most cohesive bloc in Westminster.”
Mr Blackford said: “The UK Government’s reckless approach to negotiations threatens livelihoods and ignores the clear wishes of the people of Scotland.
“Scotland voted to remain in the EU and we continue to press the UK Government to stay in the single market and customs union so we can protect jobs and living standards”
Ms Saville Roberts said: “I pressed Michel Barnier on protecting Wales’s interest through the extension of Article 50 and a People’s Vote.
“In Westminster, with the Prime Minister’s proposals amounting to nothing more than a mix of fudge and fantasy, a People’s Vote is more likely than ever.”
She added: “Corbyn’s Labour are now our biggest barrier to delivering a European future that could work for everyone. The Labour frontbench remain self-righteous and amateur in equal measure, delivering Brexit hand-in-hand with the Tories.
“As every sensible opposition party unites behind workable solutions, Labour must now reconsider its position.”
And Ms Scott Cato said she told Mr Barnier about “the concerns raised with me by constituents about the undemocratic nature of the Brexit vote and the undermining of British democracy”.
She added: “I let him know that the Green Party is working for a People’s Vote with an option to remain in the EU.”