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Emily Thornberry mourns as Brexit finally set to happen – but says Islington will continue to be ‘profoundly internationalist’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:45 31 January 2020

Emily Thornberry MP at her constituency office in Barnsbury Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

Emily Thornberry MP at her constituency office in Barnsbury Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Emily Thornberry MP has spoken of her sadness as Britain finally leaves the European Union today – but says Islington will continue to be “profoundly internationalist” beyond Brexit.

Emily Thornberry MP has spoken of her sadness as Britain finally leaves the European Union today - but says Islington will continue to be "profoundly internationalist" beyond Brexit.

The Islington South & Finsbury MP is an ardent remainer who argued Labour should push for a confirmatory referendum instead of an election but, following a crushing defeat in the latter, she's unable to stop the UK leaving the bloc at 11pm.

About 75 per cent of the borough voted to remain in the 2016 referendum and many will be in mourning at the moment of exit.

"I share their sadness," Ms Thornberry told the Gazette. "I think this is a mistake and I've fought against it and I wanted us to have a clear confirmatory referendum to find out for sure if this is what people want or not. I will be feeling pretty down [at 11pm] because I don't think this is a good thing, I don't think this is in our country's interests. Unfortunately, the result of the election is not only a Conservative government for five years but leaving Europe. [...]

"Islington is profoundly internationalist, that's not going to stop. We will continue to look outwards and we will continue to be a place for people from all over the world and every type of person. We're famous for that and should be proud of that reputation.

"I think the battle now is, what do we do to make sure we have a close relationship with Europe when it comes to trade, security and a whole range of other things.

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What we need to salvage is, although we need to leave Europe Union, is that we don't try to go across the Atlantic and saddle ourselves to Donald Trump."

In a message to EU nationals living in the borough, Ms Thornberry added: "I think that they need to make the application [for settled status] that the government says they have to make, and if they have any further concerns or want further advice they can contact me."

Asked if the UK could one day rejoin the EU, Ms Thornberry added: "I think that if it does happen it won't happen for a long time, I'm afraid. [...] In 10 years time public opinion might overwhelmingly switch but there will be a number of differences."

She said the UK could be told to join the Euro or Schengen Area or change its taxation powers in order to rejoin, arguing we're unlikely to ever get as good a deal as the one we're giving up.

She added: "The first stage is we have to ensure we get a decent trade deal with very close cooperation on issues of security and culture, so lets get through that."

Ms Thornberry is also contesting the Labour leadership, but needs the support of two unions and one Labour-affiliated group or 33 constituency Labour Parties to join Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy on the final ballot. The winner will be announced on April 4.

Reflecting on the challenger ahead, Ms Thornberry said: "I think, only a tiny proportion of constituencies have nominated. I'm getting about and enjoying it, meeting people and talking politics is a pretty key thing for me, I really like it."

She laughed, adding: "I never do things the easy way, lets face it."

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