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Labour's Angela Rayner says public 'don't want' Article 50 extension as she rubbishes second referendum

3 min read

The British public "don't want" an extension to Article 50, a key Labour frontbencher has said.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner issued the warning as she argued that a second Brexit referendum would mean politicians had "failed the public".

Labour has yet to confirm that it will back a cross-party push led by its own MP Yvette Cooper calling for an extension to Article 50 - a move that would delay Brexit day if agreed by the European Union.

However, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said earlier this week that the party was "highly likely" to support the move in a crucial Commons vote on Tuesday.

That message was echoed by Ms Rayner on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday, with the frontbencher saying: "Labour will do whatever it takes to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

"So if that's the only option that we have then it's something we will seriously consider."

But, in a direct warning to those hoping to use the amendment to push for Britain to stay in the EU, she said: "I don't think people want to see a delay in Article 50.

"I don't think people want to see us in a second referendum.

"They want to see parliamentarians working together to carry out what happened in the result of the referendum to get the best possible deal we can for Britain moving forward and the only way we can do that next week is by Theresa May actually genuinely working across Parliament and looking at her red lines and seeing how she can build that consensus.

"I still think that can happen."

Ms Rayner has previously warned that a second referendum on Brexit could undermine "democracy in itself".


Labour has tabled an amendment for Tuesday's vote that leaves open the option of a fresh public vote.

However, senior party figures have expressed deep scepticism about a move they fear could alienate Leave-supporting Labour voters in the party's heartlands.

Labour chairman Ian Lavery on Friday warned that a fresh vote on the issue “risks serious damage to the relationship between many citizens and politicians at Westminster”.

Ms Rayner told Sky News: "Well, our conference motion was very close and we said we wouldn't rule that out.

"But let me be clear. I think that if we end up in a second referendum then us as politicians have failed the public.

"We've failed to be able to do our job.

"I will see that as a really difficult situation for us all to be in."

While Ms Rayner said she would "probably" vote to Remain in any second vote, the Shadow Education Secretary described herself as "really worried" about the prospect of another referendum.

"I would be really worried about a second referendum to be honest. I don't think that people necessarily will expect the result that they get," she said.

"I think if anything it will be very narrow and worst-case scenario is it will be a very narrow Remain. And that what: are we going to have the best of three?"

On Thursday a cross-party group of MPs shelved their plans to put an amendment forward next week calling for a second referendum, and pointed the finger at Mr Corbyn.

Labour MP Luciana Berger said: “At a time when Labour should be championing a People’s Vote, the leadership avoids answering that call.

“Because the Labour leadership and frontbench won’t back a People’s Vote, there will not be a vote on the cross-party People’s Vote amendment next week.”

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