David Milliband has accused Labour of a “dereliction of duty” over its refusal to back calls for a final say on Brexit.
Speaking on the eve of the party’s annual conference, the former foreign secretary said Labour had “no strategy” for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
The issue is expected to dominate the gathering in Liverpool, with Jeremy Corbyn facing mounting pressure to support a public vote on whatever deal Theresa May negotiates with Brussels.
Grassroots activists hope to use the conference to force a change in policy towards backing a final say referendum.
It comes after Theresa May admitted negotiations were at an “impasse” and warned that the UK would leave the bloc without a deal unless EU leaders agree to compromise.
Mr Miliband, a former Labour leadership candidate, told BBC Radio 4 Today: “Labour has got to be much, much stronger. The truth is that waiting for the government to foul up is no strategy at all. The country desperately needs a strong government but it also need a strong opposition.
“Labour’s tragedy over 20 years – and I include my own period in this – is that there was almost a complacency about Europe. The Tory tragedy was to be obsessed about Europe and the Labour tragedy was to be complacent about Europe.”
He added: “Finally the complacency is breaking, at least at the constituency level of the Labour Party, but it’s an absolute dereliction of duty for the Labour Party leadership not to embrace the fundamental principle that since the Brexit that people were sold two years ago is not available, it’s essential that the Brexit deal the prime minister does is put to people.
“The most corrosive thing in the long term will be a Brexit on terms that were missold.”
Mr Miliband predicted Ms May would “eke out” a “paper-thin deal” with Brussels and then “use the threat of no deal and the disaster that represents to try to bludgeon people to support it”.
Tony Blair has thrown his weight behind The Independent’s Final Say campaign for a referendum on the terms of Brexit.
The ex-prime minister said no-one who voted in the 2016 referendum wanted a poorer country that is forced to stockpile food and medicines, as the UK is now doing.
The Independent kicked off its campaign for a Final Say on whatever Brexit terms emerge next year along with a petition earlier this week.
Within 24 hours almost 200,000 had signed the petition showing the strength of feeling in the wider country for people to have an opportunity to express themselves again.
Mr Blair took to Twitter to say: “33m+ people voted in the EU referendum wanting a better country, not to be poorer, not to put further pressure on our already stretched health service, not for job losses or to stockpile food and medicines. It should be your #Finalsay.
Theresa May has urged voters not to worry about Brexit, despite her government setting out plans to stockpile food, blood and medicine in case it goes badly.
She said people should take “reassurance and comfort” from news of the plans, to be implemented if the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement in March next year.
It came after health secretary Matt Hancock admitted he had already met with industry leaders to discuss building up NHS reserves of vaccinations, medical devices, clinical consumables and blood products if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.
On Saturday the 3rd August, the CLP was delighted to welcome Andy McDonald, Shadow Secretary for Transport. Despite near perfect North Yorkshire weather, 40 members and visitors crowded into the Helmsley Arts Centre. For Andy this was a return visit to his honeymoon town, but he showed no sign of sentiment as he presented an incisive account of Westminster life and the challenges of dealing with our Tory adversaries. Preparing ourselves for the next general election was a key topic – and the CLP is being encouraged to work with neighbouring constituencies to maximize the impact of a Labour vote.
In the second half of the meeting, small groups discussed priority topics : Rural Deprivation, Peoples Vote, Health and Social Care for Older People, Rail Transport, Bus Transport, Engaging Young People and Housing. Each group presented their policy wish list in a sentence, and (Westminster please take note) there was a strong consensus in the room. We want young people engaged in politics; a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal; an equitable, not for profit health and social care system; integrated (UK) state run transport and fair rents for all.
Andy’s visit was a catalyst for a great discussion and it was heartening that many people were first attenders – maybe our ambition merely to dent the Tory majority in Thirsk and Malton at the next election should be revised upwards..
Many thanks to Chris and Nick for their hard work in organizing the event (and thanks to Jill for the photo)