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Labour anger after Tory uses name of Mo Mowlam to push Brexit deal

Late Secretary of State Mo Mowlam
Late Secretary of State Mo Mowlam
Stephen Barclay during Commons debate

By David Young

Furious Labour MPs have slammed Brexit Minister Steve Barclay after he invoked the name of the late Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam in a bid to encourage the party to vote for the Prime Minister's withdrawal proposals on Saturday.

Speaking at the start of the highly-charged debate, Mr Barclay said: "Today is the time for this House to come together and move forward.

"Someone who previously did that, and whom many Members of the House will still remember, was the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam.

"Her biography was called Momentum - before it was a faction forcing out its own colleagues," he teased, referring to a current left-wing pressure group inside the Labour Party.

Mr Barclay was immediately interrupted by angry shouts of "shame" from the Labour benches in the House, for whom Ms Mowlam - who died in 2005 - remains an icon.

The uproar caused Speaker John Bercow to call for calm in the Commons.

On Twitter Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said it was "deeply offensive of the Brexit Sec. to use the memory of Mo Mowlam in the chamber to urge us to vote to leave the EU".

"Mo was a passionate European who believed it was in all our interests to stick together. She would never have stopped fighting for us to Remain," she added.

Her colleague, Labour MP Paul Sweeney, said the Brexit Secretary's comments were "crass in the extreme".

"Mo Mowlam would have never backed a deal that will lead to a hard border down the Irish Sea and threaten the peace in Northern Ireland," he said.

Ms Mowlam served as NI Secretary of State from 1997 to 1999, the period when the Belfast Agreement was signed, setting the scene for 20 years of relative peace in Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Anna Turley, who represents Redcar, Ms Mowlam's former seat, said she was shocked to hear her name mentioned by the Brexit Secretary, accusing Mr Barclay of "abusing her legacy".

Mr Barclay also noted the support of former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble for the Prime Minister's Brexit plans.

The Nobel Peace Prize recipient, now Lord Trimble, is today a Conservative peer in the House of Lords.

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