The Daily Mail has cited an unnamed Labour source as defying party leader Keir Starmer’s call to vote for the London-Brussels trade deal and saying that “we don’t want Brexit blood on our hands”.
The remarks come as Starmer faces a rebellion from an array of Europhile Labour lawmakers, including several backbenchers, who are expected to ignore Starmer’s three-line whip to support the deal.
The source was echoed by MP Neil Coyle, who publicly signaled an unwillingness to back the trade agreement, claiming Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “downgrade for the UK should not have any Labour fingerprints on it”.
The rebellion by Labour lawmakers was preceded by Starmer stating on Thursday that his party would support what he described as a “thin deal” between the UK and the EU.
Starmer added that even though “a better deal could have been negotiated”, he accepts “that option has now gone”.
His remarks were partly echoed by British fishermen’s leaders who expressed dissatisfaction about the EU and the UK managing to reach a last-minute deal.
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, claimed his industry’s interests had been betrayed in order to reach a deal.
He was apparently referring to then-UK Prime Minister Heath leading Britain into the European Economic Community – the precursor to the EU – in 1973.
The remarks followed Johnson on Friday urging House of Commons members to vote in favour of the trade deal on 30 December, a call that came as the full text of the over 1,250-page agreement was published and sent to UK and EU lawmakers to be scrutinised.
On Thursday, the UK prime minister announced that London and Brussels had completed “the biggest trade deal yet, worth £660 billion a year”, an agreement that was also praised by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as “fair, balanced, and right”.
The agreement was reached following protracted talks, with the sides at odds over a spate of sensitive issues, including fisheries.
European nations, including France and the Netherlands, demanded that EU fishermen continue to have access to British waters, while London rejected any agreement that might resemble the status quo and insisted on holding annual discussions with the EU over quotas.
Under the new post-Brexit trade deal, the EU’s quota will be reduced to 25% over the next five and a half years.