It emerged in September 2018 that Sir Keir Starmer, then Shadow Brexit Secretary, was pushed to the brink of resignation amid growing disputes with Jeremy Corbyn. Senior Labour Party sources told the Guardian that there had been a big row between the two prominent figures in the party. The party’s Brexit policy had evolved in the 18 months prior to the argument as Labour struggled with holding on to both Remain and Leave supporting voters. Changes to the policy had been undertaken after painstaking negotiations between key players at the top of the party, the most fraught of which came at a stormy meeting of the “Brexit subcommittee” in 2018.
Mr Corbyn’s close allies ambushed Sir Keir with a paper which shelved the decision on joining a customs union, a policy he had been pushing privately for weeks, the Guardian reported.
Several people present at the meeting told the Guardian the general feeling in the room was that Sir Keir was willing to resign rather than accept the proposals, numbered copies of which were handed out at the start of the meeting and retrieved at the end.
One MP present in the meetings said: “He looked close to telling them to shove it – and I think that did count for something.
“I think Jeremy was slightly surprised at how angry Keir was, and how p****d off he was.”
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Another figure who was in the meeting added: “Jeremy started speaking, and Keir just said, enough, this was just completely outrageous.
“He did lose his temper. I think they were genuinely shocked at his reaction. They tried to bounce him and it completely backfired.”
The Remain supporting side of the Labour Party, comprised of centre ground MPs such as Chuka Umuna and Chris Leslie, were keen to keep the UK in the customs union.
But Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet were worried that such a stance could be seen as a betrayal by Labour Leavers.
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But within weeks, Sir Keir’s proposal that Labour should sign up to the idea of a customs union – while insisting Britain retained the right to strike its own trade deals – was adopted.
But Labour stopped short of advocating joining the single market.
A source close to Sir Keir admitted that the meeting had been robust but insisted that he had not been close to resignation, the Guardian reported.
The feud also included Sir Keir contradicting his own party leader – Jeremy Corbyn – by claiming “Brexit can be stopped”.
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The then Shadow Brexit Secretary said: “Well, Brexit can be stopped. But the real question is what are the decisions we are going to face over the next few weeks and months?
“Decision one is on the deal, decision two is if the deal goes down should there be a general election and decision three is if there is no general election then all options must be on the table, including the option of a public vote.
“And that is the clear position, and Jeremy signed up for that, and I’m signed up to that, and that is the position that was passed at Labour Party conference.”
He added: “Jeremy and I… and the whole Labour Party is absolutely behind the Labour Party policy that was laid out in September.”
However, just days before Sir Keir made the comment, Mr Corbyn had said the complete opposite.
The former Leader of the Opposition had argued for respecting the result of the referendum in 2016, in which Leave won with 52 percent of the vote.
Mr Corbyn told Der Spiegel November 2018: “We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognise the reasons why people voted Leave.”