Former Norwich MP blasts ‘craven’ Labour for colluding with the government over Brexit

Charles Clarke Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Charles Clarke Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Labour's response to Brexit has been branded confused and incoherent, by the former MP for Norwich South.

Labour grandee Charles Clarke accused Jeremy Corbyn of 'colluding' with the government and giving the Conservatives a 'free ride' over its plans for Britain's exit from the Europena Union as he urged the party to accept the referendum decision 'for what it was, and not for what it was not'.

Writing for The New European, the former cabinet minister said Labour had allowed the prime minister's unfounded claim that there was no alternative to her Brexit to be accepted.

'Labour should not be colluding with government proposals, or even simply opposing from time to time. Labour has to make its own compelling case for the future. It must lead the national debate not follow it,' the former home secretary said.

He claimed the British people had never voted for an 'economically suicidal' departure from the single market and customs union - a prospect set out by prime minister Theresa May

Mr Clarke, who was the Norwich South MP until 2010 when he lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats, said despite differences of opinion over immigration, Labour was in a much better position to put forward an agreed alternative Brexit strategy than many seemed to think.

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He said Labour's independent Brexit strategy should allow EU citizens to come to the UK if they had a place to study or a confirmed job, particularly in the farms and factories which need the workers.

'Labour should not be frustrating the referendum decision but nor should it be assisting the government's highly divisive and damaging version of Brexit,' he said.

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Mr Clarke, who was a key ally of former prime minister Tony Blair, said Labour had been right to back the second reading of the Brexit bill, but should have voted against the unamended bill at its third reading following the committee stage - an approach taken by the current Norwich South MP Clive Lewis.

'In short Labour was absolutely wrong to submit cravenly to the government's contention that its Brexit strategy was the only possible way to implement the referendum vote,' he added.

'At this momentous period in British history Labour cannot walk by on the other side. If it did it would fully deserve to play no part in the future of country. It's time to engage fully in this vital national debate.'

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