James Forsyth

Starmer’s willingness to vote for a Brexit deal is wise

Starmer’s willingness to vote for a Brexit deal is wise
Keir Starmer at PMQs (Parliament TV)
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Keir Starmer normally avoids the subject of Brexit. But with Boris Johnson flying to Brussels tonight for dinner with Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, he could not avoid it at PMQs.

But Boris Johnson, who was in the chamber in contrast to Starmer who is self-isolating, attempted to turn the tables. Johnson asked whether Starmer would vote for a deal. This was a bit premature given that there is no certainty that there will be a deal. But Starmer’s answer was interesting. He said Labour’s vote would be based on the national interest, not the party interest. Given that the choice in that vote would be between an agreement and no agreement – and Starmer’s views on the latter – it seems that Labour would vote for a deal if Johnson came back with one.

Starmer’s willingness to vote for a deal will not be universally popular in his party. Those Labour MPs, including shadow Cabinet members, in heavily Remain seats will not like it. But Starmer’s calculation that voting against a deal would make it that much harder for Labour to move on from Brexit and get a hearing from those voters who abandoned the party – in part – over its stance on the issue, is undoubtedly correct.