Tuesday 22 October 2019

Labour in disarray on second vote as policy disputed

British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire
British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire

Alain Tolhurst

A senior Labour frontbencher has denied the party's Brexit policy is to push for a second referendum, despite a host of senior colleagues backing a new public vote.

Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, said Jeremy Corbyn's number one aim was to force a general election if a deal that "would be acceptable to the broad majority within Parliament" cannot be found.

Speaking to BBC One's 'The Andrew Marr Show', he said the party's position was originally "remain and reform" the EU, but switched to help to try and "secure the referendum result and to get a deal and to make sure that we left the EU".

He said Theresa May's government "failed to do that through its own incompetence and the intransigence of the red lines that it laid down".

Mr Gardiner said: "Now we are in the position where our party conference set out very clearly that if we could not get a deal that was acceptable, if we were facing a disastrous no-deal situation, we would do everything we could to stop that, and that means a second public vote, either through a general election or through a second referendum."

Pressed on whether "the official Labour Party position now is for a second referendum", Mr Gardiner replied: "It's exactly the same as it was at the party conference, which is if we could not get that, then of course we would oppose no deal. We would look either for a public vote or, indeed, for a general election to do that."


Mr Marr questioned why he "can't just say 'yes'" when Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the party leaders in Scotland and Wales are among senior figures who have all called for a second referendum in recent weeks.

Mr Gardiner said it was because, as the opposition party, Labour has the power to call an election by passing a motion of no confidence in the Government, but was not able to call for a referendum.

He said: "The point is this: that in order to get a second referendum, the government would have to introduce legislation and the government has made it clear that it doesn't want to do that.

"We could force its hand for a general election because we can introduce that, we have the power to introduce that motion of no confidence."

Irish Independent

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