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Labour split as Shadow Cabinet minister suggests party could back Brexit deal without second referendum

2 min read

Labour could sign-up to a Brexit deal with the Government without committing to a referendum on it, Shadow Cabinet minister Rebecca Long-Bailey has suggested.

The party is facing pressure from pro-EU members and MPs to commit to a confirmatory vote ahead of the European elections next month, when its ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) convenes on Tuesday.

Frontbenchers including Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer have both previously suggested that any deal agreed should be signed off by the public.

Ms Long-Bailey has been among the top team involved in cross-party talks alongside colleagues Mr Starmer and John McDonnell, in a bid to break the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the bloc.

However when asked if a second Brexit referendum was a “red line” for the opposition in the talks, the Shadow Business Secretary said: “I wouldn’t couch it in terms of a second referendum, but our party policy has always been that firstly we want to get a Brexit deal that puts our economy and living standards first and protects our environmental protections, workplace protections, health and safety standards.”

“We want a customs union arrangement in order to keep our borders open, so that our manufacturing industry isn’t detrimentally affected, and we keep the movement of goods flowing as freely as possible. And we want a strong single market relationship.”

She repeated the party’s conference pledge from last September, that if those objectives were not met, then option of a second vote remained on the table.

The frontbencher's comments were echoed by Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner, who told the BBC's Pienaar's Politics: “The party’s policy at that conference was that to stop a no-deal or to stop a bad Theresa May deal, and we couldn’t get our deal through or something that pretty close to it as we’ve outlined it, then of course we would want to have a second referendum.”

The talks between Labour and Mrs May's team began last month and have prompted clashes, with Mr Starmer accusing the Prime Minister of refusing to budge on her red lines, while Mrs May accused Labour of “dragging its feet” in order to force Britain to take part in EU elections next month.

Ms Long-Bailey told the programme that ministers had appeared “amenable” to fulfillilng Labour’s demands on workers' rights but that the party was “waiting at the moment to see if that turns into pens on paper.”

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