Emily Thornberry launches furious attack on Labour's Brexit policy after election losses

Posted On: 
26th May 2019

Emily Thornberry has launched an extraordinary attack on Labour's policy on Brexit as the party headed for major losses in the European elections.

Emily Thornberry said Labour must back Remain in a second referendum.
Credit: 
BBC

The Shadow Foreign Secretary - one of Jeremy Corbyn's key lieutenants - said Labour candidates had been badly let down by the party hierarchy's refusal to explicitly support a second EU referendum.

Her comments are a direct challenge to the Labour leader's authority and were a rejection of the officially-approved messaging handed out by party bosses to MPs.

Fresh Labour splits as Len McCluskey accuses Tom Watson of anti-Corbyn plot over second referendum

Tom Watson warns Jeremy Corbyn Labour will lose election unless it backs second referendum

Keir Starmer says it would be 'impossible' for Labour to back Brexit deal without second referendum

Early results suggested that Labour was set to lose MEPs across the country, with the party set for heavy defeats in traditional strongholds such as Scotland, Wales, London and Sheffield.

Labour's official policy is that a so-called "People's Vote" should only be an option to stop a "bad Tory Brexit" or a no-deal departure from the EU.

Appearing at the start of the BBC's European election coverage, Ms Thornberry said: "These are really bad results for Labour. I think we're going to get a kicking. 

"We went into an election where the most important issue was what was our view on leaving the European Union and we were not clear about it. We were not clear on the one single thing that people wanted to hear and that wasn't (the candidates' ) fault.

"We should have said quite simply that any deal that comes out of this government should be put to a confirmatory referendum and that Remain should be on the ballot paper and that Labour would campaign to Remain.

"That's what we should have done and I think that it's very unfortunate that after these elections we will have to look very carefully at why we got this result. Members of the National Executive Committee, who made the decision on policy, will need to be listening to the membership and learning from that."

She added: "We will need to look again at out policy in relation to this and make sure we are clearer."

"We have done everything we can to try to get a decent policy on leaving the European Union but I think that things have moved on."

CORBYN: 'BACK TO THE PEOPLE'

Responding to the electoral hammering, Mr Corbyn pointed the finger at the Conservatives - but hinted at a rethink of the Labour's own Brexit strategy.

"After three years of Tory failure to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole country, these elections became a proxy second referendum," the Labour leader said.

"With the Conservatives disintegrating and unable to govern, and parliament deadlocked, this issue will have to go back to the people, whether through a general election or a public vote. Labour will bring our divided country together so we can end austerity and tackle inequality.

"Over the coming days we will have conversations across our party and movement, and reflect on these results on both sides of the Brexit divide.

"We will not let the continuing chaos in the Conservative Party push our country into a No Deal exit from the EU. Parliament can and will prevent such a damaging outcome for jobs and industry in the UK."

Earlier on Sunday, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson had said the party would lose the next general election unless it backs another referendum.

Writing in The Observer, he said: "Once results are in, we must channel our frustration into preventing this mistake repeating itself and winning those voters back.

“Never again can Labour policy on the most crucial issue of our generation find itself on the wrong side of its members and our voters.

“Never again can we find ourselves hedging our bets when we needed to make an historic choice about which side we’re on.”