Labour rebellion: Keir Starmer faces revolt of 60 MP's if he backs Brexit trade deal

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As many as 60 Labour MPs on the front and backbenches could defy their leader if he insists the party back a deal negotiated by Lord Frost on behalf of Boris Johnson. But Sir Keir is wary failure to support a deal could have a devastating impact on the party’s attempts to win back former Labour voters who backed the Tories at the 2019 general election.

The leader faces not only the risk of a major backbench rebellion if he tries to force his MPs to vote for a deal, but also decent number within his top team, with a row over what stance to take on any agreement already brewing.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds, who is a former MEP and represents the ultra-Remain seat of Oxford East – is understood to be one of the voices at the top table uncomfortable with backing a deal.

In a speech at Bloomberg yesterday, she said: “It is not a foregone conclusion that we will emerge with a deal.

“If we do obtain a deal, media reports suggest it will be as thin as gruel – it won’t contain anything for our largest exporting industry.


“And along the way, having threatened to break international law as a negotiating tactic, the government has trashed our reputation with other potential trading partners.”

Negotiations between the UK and the EU are ongoing, with Brussels’ chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, describing this week as a “make or break moment” for the talks.

A trade deal would likely have to be secured this week if there is to be time for both the UK and EU to ratify it in their Parliaments before the end of the transition period on December 31.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy are both thought to support voting with the Government if a deal is agreed.

Admitting there were disagreements in the shadow cabinet on the issue, a source told The Guardian: “There have been healthy discussions about how we proceed from here.

“Ultimately, no one disagrees that the divide between Leave and Remain is over – but we’ve got to show we are serious about moving forward as a party and as a nation.”

READ MORE: Lords inflict defeat on Boris’ Brexit plan over plot to ditch EU rules

Polling has found as many as one in five former Labour voters may have rejected the party last December as a result of its botched Brexit policy.

Eager to avoid a civil war between the party’s MPs and angering voters, Sir Keir Starmer is thought to be now considering whether to tell his party to abstain in any upcoming Commons vote on a deal.

The Labour leader has ordered his MPs to abstain on several major votes in recent weeks in order to avoid the political consequences.

Sir Keir faced frontbenchers resignations in October when he told Labour MPs to abstain on new legislation increasing the power of the UK’s security services.

Earlier this week he also told his party not to vote for or against Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus tier system which came into force yesterday.

The move gave reason for the Prime Minister to mocking his counterpart at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.

“Captain Hindsight is rising rapidly up the ranks and has become General Indecision,” he said.

“He dithers; we get on with the job.”

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