LABOUR chiefs are set to finalise the timetable and rules for the party’s leadership contest today, as two of the leading candidates clashed over Brexit.

Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will meet in London to set the timetable for the contest, which is expected to formally start tomorrow. It will also confirm the “freeze date” for eligibility to vote for those signing up and the cost of becoming a registered supporter – non-party members who can vote in the race.

So far, Jess Phillips, Emily Thornberry, Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and favourite Keir Starmer have all declared.

Although she has not formally entered the contest, last week Rebecca Long Bailey said she was “considering standing” for the leadership and is widely expected to do so. She has already received the support of John McDonnell and Richard Burgon, while many on the left see her as the so-called “continuity Corbyn” candidate.

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The rest of the leadership hopefuls were out in force yesterday morning to set out their political programmes.

Starmer, who officially launched his campaign this weekend, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that Labour had lost last month’s election because of a lack of clarity on Brexit and antisemitism.

He disagreed with Phillips, who was also interviewed on the BBC show, over Brexit.

Starmer told the show’s host: “The issues [on the doorstep] were: the leadership, rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, was coming up everywhere; the Brexit position and whether we were persuading people and more importantly whether we were knocking down the Tories’ claim that they would get Brexit done; antisemitism came up as a question of values and competence, and there was a general feeling that the manifesto was overloaded.”

But the MP also told Marr that Labour “shouldn’t retreat from the radical” as he outlined his vision for the future.

The National: Rebecca Long-Bailey is expected to enter the Labour leadership raceRebecca Long-Bailey is expected to enter the Labour leadership race

On Brexit, Starmer said: “We didn’t persuade on our policy. We should’ve taken a stronger position one way or the other.”

He insisted the party needed to come to terms with the fact that the UK was leaving Europe.

“We are going to leave the EU in the next few weeks; and it’s important for all of us, including myself, to realise that the argument for Leave and Remain goes with it. We are leaving. We will have left the EU,” he said.

“This election blew away the argument for a second referendum, rightly or wrongly, and we have to adjust to that situation.”

He said the debate should now move on to what Britain’s relationship with the EU, as a non-member, should look like, stating: “The argument now is can we insist on that close relationship with the EU – close economic relationship but collaboration in other areas – and also, what is the framework now, for future trade relations?”

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However, Phillips hinted that a return to the EU could be possible under her leadership.

“You would have to look at what is going on at the time. What our job is, for the next three years, is to hold Boris Johnson to account for all the promises,” she told Marr. “So if we are living in an absolute paradise of trade, and we’re totally safe in the world, and we’re not going to worry about having to constantly look to America for our safety and security, then maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

“But the reality is that if our country is safer, if it is more economically viable to be in the EU, then I will fight for that, regardless of how difficult that argument is to make.”

She also moved to distance herself from the last manifesto and its commitment to renationalise mail, water and energy.

The Birmingham Yardley MP told the BBC show that “we have to make choices”.

Phillips also questioned how Corbyn’s free broadband pledge would have been delivered when other public services were crumbling and people cannot get vital social care for their parents.

Meanwhile, Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the “dreadful” electoral result was partly because the manifesto “just wasn’t convincing”.

She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “In the end, we can say until we are blue in the face that there is another way – and there is – but we won’t get the opportunity to serve if people don’t believe us.”