Emily Thornberry opens door to second Brexit referendum if public opinion changes

Posted On: 
14th January 2018

Emily Thornberry has suggested Labour could yet back a second Brexit referendum if public opinion suggests the vast majority of voters want to stay in the EU.

Emily Thornberry entertained the idea of a second Brexit referendum if public opinion changed significantly.
PA images

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said that "at the moment" her party was doing "as we are instructed", but she left the door open for a possible second vote.

Last month Jeremy Corbyn also failed to categorically rule out a second vote, saying only that his party was "not advocating" a re-run of the 2016 poll. 

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Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has suggested this week that there could be another referendum to put the issue to bed - although he insisted Leave would win by a bigger margin than 18 months ago.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Ms Thornberry said a big change in public opinion would be a "challenge" to political leaders.

"We need to have a meaningful vote in Parliament and that is what we finally wrung out of this Government...those who represent this country in Parliament must have a vote on the divorce and if it's the wrong thing the Government should go back and renegotiate," she said.

"As for a second referendum, the question is are you talking about the divorce or the final relationship, because the final relationship will be agreed in many years' time.

"In either case, if 90% of the population was now saying we should stay in the EU and we must not leave, then that would be a challenge that would be there for all of us who are democrats. 

"But at the moment, and as things currently stand, we proceed in good faith, we do as we are instructed. We are leaving the EU but we have to keep this government honest and we have to make sure that when we do leave we are making decisions which actually look after our country first and foremost, which means looking after the jobs of our kids."

Pro-EU backbencher Chuka Umunna endorsed the new stance, telling Sky's Niall Paterson: "Parliament has a duty to exhaust this process to try and deliver Brexit in the terms that it was sold.

"Now if that proves to be impossible, then of course we should have an open mind about what happens at the end of the process. I am not opposed in principle at all to us having a new poll on this on the final deal."