The anti-Brexit 'resistance' is coming, warns ex-Labour Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell
Austin Mitchell, former MP for Great Grimsby
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 29 Sep 2017
Ex-Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell has warned that the “anti-Brexit resistance is coming” – but he said there could be no reversal of the decision to divorce from Brussels.
The outspoken Eurosceptic described the 2016 referendum result as a “landmark vote” but admitted he was worried forces in his own party and within the European Union wanted to prevent Britain from leaving.
Mr Mitchell was at the Labour Party conference in Brighton this week and made the comments at a “fringe” event organised by the group Labour Leave.
He told those at the standing-room only session how he was “worried about what is going to happen” with Brexit.
The MP of 38 years said it was not the “national dotards – Tony [Blair], [Nick] Cleggy or Paddy [Ashdown]” who he feared getting in the way of Brexit, but pro-EU Labour politicians.
“In my view, the resistance is coming. There are those who want to keep Britain in Europe and call the whole thing off,” said Mr Mitchell.
“I was amazed that 30 MPs [and MEPs] signed that letter [published to mark the start of Labour’s conference] saying we should stay in the single market.
“Jeremy Corbyn is trying to keep the whole issue quiet and keep the shadow cabinet united. And then these 30 idiots say, ‘Let’s have a debate on the single market’.
“[The letter] makes us look like we are not serious about the negotiations and that Britain really wants to remain in Europe.”
Richard Corbett, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber (right), was one of the 30 Labour politicians to sign the letter demanding Jeremy Corbyn sign-up to keeping the UK in the single market after Brexit
Mr Mitchell, who stood down as the town’s MP at the 2015 general election, stressed that Britain must be prepared to “walk away” without a trade deal if the EU continued to be obstinate in its negotiations.
He said Brussels’ refusal to talk about future trading arrangements until the divorce settlement, along with questions over the Northern Ireland border, had been settled put Britain in an “impossible” situation.
The 83-year-old continued: “Michel Barnier [the EU’s chief negotiator] has just been employed to say ‘No’.
“We are going to have to threaten to walk away from this provocation if they carry on.
“The [EU’s] idea is to make it so alarming and threatening that we call the whole thing off – for us to say, ‘Bugger this – it is too hard’.”
The former television presenter said it would be “disastrous” to abandon leaving the bloc, arguing that EU membership had “drained” the UK economically.
Britain had a trade surplus with the EU when it joined in 1973, he said – now it has a trade deficit of £660 million.
Millionaire businessman John Mills was the largest individual Labour Leave donor
He also highlighted the negative impact of the Common Fisheries Policy on his former Grimsby constituency.
“I was the MP for Grimsby,” he told the audience. “We were not allowed to catch our fish – we could catch only a third of what was in our waters.
“And even then, we couldn’t process it all here [in the UK]. Some of it had to go to other countries. I don’t have the figures but that must be costing us billions of pounds a year.”
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He urged the Brexit-wing of the Labour Party not to give up on their dream of leaving the EU.
“We can’t go back on the Brexit road. The people have spoken. We need to follow through. We can’t go back to the EU with our tail between our legs to sit on the naughty step.
“That would be to confess that we have failed and we can’t make it on our own. I don’t want to make that concession – we can stand on our own.”
John Mills, millionaire businessman and Labour Leave’s largest individual donor, responded to Mr Mitchell’s speech, saying: “You can see why we miss you in the House of Commons.”