Keeping up the intense pressure on the prime minister in the run-up to the vote on 11 December, the shadow Brexit secretary also confirmed that Labour would begin contempt of parliament proceedings against ministers if they failed to publish the government’s full legal advice on the implications of May’s deal.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, Starmer said Labour was expecting May to lose the initial vote, given the opposition of so many Tory MPs and of her DUP informal coalition partners.
“I think the prime minister, as we all know, is going to struggle between now and that vote,” Starmer said, saying that if she lost, the PM would need to then outline her next move to the Commons.
“We need to see what that is. But it seems to me that if the prime minister has lost a vote of that sort of significance, then there has to be a question of confidence in he government,” he said. “I think it’s inevitable that we will seek to move that.
“Obviously, it’ll depend on what actually happens in nine days, it depends on what the response is. But if she’s lost a vote of this significance after two years of negotiation, then it is right that there should be a general election because, but for the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the convention was always, if a government loses what’s called a confidence vote, something of such significance, then that government has to go.”
Labour’s policy has long been to push for a general election if no Brexit deal can be reached, but Starmer’s comments firm up the likely timetable. If May’s government were not deposed, he said, Labour would start seeking a second referendum.
If this took place, he added, the vote should not include the option of a no-deal departure from the EU, as this would be too damaging for the UK.