Brexit issues dominate 2nd day of Labour Party's annual conference
LONDON, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Britain's future in the European Union (EU) dominated the second day of the Labour Party's annual conference in Brighton Monday.
Some delegates had demanded a full debate and a vote on Brexit, aimed at keeping Britain in the European single market and the customs union.
The conference instead voted overwhelmingly to keep the party's existing Brexit policy outlined in its recent election manifesto. This accepted the EU referendum result and sets negotiating priorities on retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union.
With accusations that Prime Minister Theresa May's governing Conservatives are bitterly divided on the Brexit issue, government Brexit minister Steve Baker seized on the outcome of Labour's own Brexit squabbles.
"Their 'Brexit ban' on a vote at conference shows just how divided they are. The Conservatives are the only party working to make a success of Brexit," said Baker.
Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer blamed Prime Minister May and her Conservative government for putting Britain's place in the world, as well as jobs, at stake.
Starmer accused May of robotically marching towards an extreme Brexit, focussed, he claimed, on her own survival not the national interest.
"Maybe the Conservatives can afford this disastrous approach to Brexit, but I know, that millions of working people cannot. Whether you're in the front seat with Theresa May, or in the backseat with Boris Johnson, there's nothing patriotic about joy-riding our country's economy off a cliff."
Labour, he said respects the result of last year's referendum which voted in favor of leaving the EU.
Starmer said May's keynote speech in Florence last week when she confirmed there would be a post-Brexit transitional period of two years, had delayed a "cliff edge" Brexit.
"Let's not be fooled by what the prime minister said in Florence. She still insists, in spite of all the warnings, that no deal is a viable option."
Glenis Wilmott, chair of Labour's NEC, who also serves as an MEP in the European Parliament, agreed with Starmer's message, saying "no deal is not better than a bad deal. Our country will become poorer; jobs will be lost; whole sectors of the economy will grind to a halt."
In the big keynote speech of the day, the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said a Labour government would renationalize the main utility companies as well as railways, by taking them back into public ownership. They were privatized by the Conservative Party in the 1980s.
McDonnell's pledge was later attacked by Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry.
She said: "McDonnell's vision of massive state intervention was the wrong plan at the wrong time. It raises a warning flag over the British economy at a critical time for our country's future.
"Forced nationalization of large parts of British industry will send investors running for the hills, and puts misplaced nostalgia ahead of progressive vision. The CBI looks forward to urgent discussion with the Labour leadership to find better solutions to the shared challenges."