Second referendum must be an option for Labour, says Starmer

#Brexit special section Commentary

The possibility of holding a second referendum with Remain on the ballot must be kept open by Labour, the party’s shadow Brexit Secretary has said.

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour should either pressure the government to negotiate a deal based on a customs union, or fight for a new public vote.

His comments came after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal was thrown out by MPs on Tuesday.

That leaves Labour in a strong position to influence the nature of the UK’s departure and Starmer said the referendum was an ‘important commitment.’

He told a Fabian Society event in London called ‘Brexit and Beyond’ that Labour stood by the policy over Brexit decided upon at last year’s conference.

Members agreed that all Brexit options should be kept open, including a push for a second referendum if they could not secure a General Election.

Starmer said: “That is a very important commitment. It’s a commitment to you, our members and our movement. A public vote has to be an option for Labour.

“After all, deeply embedded in our values are internationalism, collaboration and cooperation with our European partners.”

“I don’t think it is any secret I firmly believe there should be a remain option and there has to be a genuine leave option.”

Starmer told his audience it looked ‘inevitable’ that the government would be forced to ask for an extension to the article 50 withdrawal process.

This is because there is a backlog of legislation to get through Parliament before the UK’s departure date of March 29.

“Neither of the alternative options I have set out today could realistically be completed by 29 March.

“So, it’s time for us inject some honesty into this debate, and to identify the credible solutions that remain.

“We also have to recognise that nobody, whether you voted leave or remain, wanted to be in this position.”

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson also spoke at the event and said his party must not fail Britain at a ‘great moment of change.’

He added: “The country needs the leadership that only we can give. Let’s make sure we do not fail them.”

Watson, Labour’s shadow minister for culture, media and sport, said a second referendum might have to be called to break the stalemate in Parliament.

He added: “That might be the only way that the insurance policy part of our conference resolution can help break the impasse.”

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston is to table a ‘people’s vote’ amendment to the ‘Plan B’ Brexit motion due to be published on Monday.

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