Keir Starmer was scathing in his criticism of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after it was reported he had spoken in favour of freedom of movement while speaking to EU ambassadors.
He said: “We are seeing a situation now almost on a daily basis where there are leaked memos, there are photographed documents.
“And we have Boris Johnson with almost a running commentary. Whether it is to Czech newspapers or to ambassadors.
“It is becoming a complete mess. I think the Government needs to correct this now.
“We have been saying clarify the situation, set out what your approach is to the negotiations.
“They could cut all this away if they provided leadership and certainty and they are failing to do so.”
Asked about Mr Johnson’s strong denials over his reported comments to EU ambassadors where he said he supported freedom of movement, Mr Starmer said it was important not to lose perspective.
He said: “They can”t both be right, it is an unfortunate situation. We have got 121 days until the negotiations start.
“Setting the tone, getting the talks off to a good start. We all want the best deal.
“And that means being professional with our partners. This is not dealing professionally with our partners.
“It is unhelpful, when different things are being said by different people all of the time.”
“It is beginning to scupper the chances of the negotiations getting off to a good start.”
Four senior EU ambassadors spoke to Sky News and said Mr Johnson had told them privately he backed freedom of movement – despite his rhetoric during the Brexit referendum.
One revealed: “Boris Johnson told us he was personally in favour of it, but he said that Britain had been more affected by freedom movement of people than other EU member states.”
Another said: “He did say he was personally in favour of free movement, as it corresponds to his own beliefs. But he said it wasn’t Government policy.”
A third official added: “Boris Johnson has been openly telling us that he is personally in favour of free movement.”
Reacting to Mr Johnson’s comments, Nick Clegg thundered: “It just suggests that Boris Johnson, one of the senior members of this Government, is just treating voters like fools.
“Boris Johnson was the figurehead of the Brexit campaign, he was the principle spokesman of their key message which was that they would bring an end to freedom of movement.
“If it now emerges that he never believed it all along I think it will leave a lot of people who voted for him and for Brexit extremely angry indeed.”