LABOUR has put Brexit behind it and will not rejoin the EU, the party leader said yesterday on his first visit to Hartlepool at the start of a terrifically close by-election.

Hartlepool was one of the most pro-Brexit parts of the country in the 2016 referendum but to fight May 6’s by-election, Labour has selected a candidate who campaigned to remain.

The Northern Echo:

But visiting the red wall seat, where Labour is defending a slim 3,600 majority, Sir Keir Starmer said: “We are looking forwards not backwards.

“The referendum was five years ago now. We have left the EU. There is no case for rejoining. We want to make our exit a success. We want the deal to work, we are asking how we make the UK a great success under whatever trading arrangements we make with the EU and the wider world.

“We don’t want to go back to the divisions of the 2016 referendum. We want to speak to and for those in Hartlepool who voted either way in the referendum.

“Now what matters most is what the future looks like not what divisions we might have had in the past.”

The Northern Echo:

His words represent a clear break with the party’s policy at the 2019 General Election of holding a second referendum.

The unpopularity of that policy was part of the reason that seats along the red wall of the Tees Valley and County Durham went Conservative for the first time. Among the casualties was Dr Paul Williams, then Stockton South MP, who is now the party’s candidate in what is being considered the most important by-election in 30 years.