Keir Starmer offers biggest hint yet that Labour could back second Brexit referendum
Keir Starmer refused three times to rule out Labour backing a second referendum on Brexit.
When asked if the party supported the public being given an opportunity to reverse last year’s vote and remain in the bloc, the Shadow Brexit Secretary would only say that Labour “hasn’t called for a referendum”.
“We’ve never called for a second referendum, we are focussing on what the new agreement needs to look like,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
When pressed twice more, he repeated that the party has not backed a fresh vote to date, before adding: “Things are moving so fast it’s hard to know what’s going to come next, but we are not calling for a second referendum.”
His comments come after Jeremy Corbyn told a European Socialist Party conference earlier this month that Labour has “not made any decision on a second referendum.”
Mr Starmer also said a Labour government would back "easy movement" as an alternative to free movement between the UK and European Union after Brexit.
He said a common migration policy would have to be thrashed out between ministers on both sides in order for the UK to retain close alignment with the single market and customs union.
And he said the party would consider continuing to pay into European coffers in order to strike “a Norway deal for the 21st century” – with a new treaty outlining full access to the single market and customs union.
Norway, which is a member of the single market but outside the EU, must adhere to free movement between itself and Europe as part of the trading bloc’s conditions.
When pressed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show whether that meant Britain would be forced to sign up to open borders, Mr Starmer said: “That would have to be negotiated.”
“The end of freedom of movement doesn’t mean no movement. Of course we would want people from the EU to come and work here, we’d want people who are here to go and work in the EU, the basis of that would have to be negotiated…"
When asked whether that amounted to “easy movement”, he replied: “Yes, of course."
And when pressed on the sums the UK may have to hand over to the bloc to retain close trade ties he said: “Norway pays money in, they do it on a voluntary basis, but there may have to be payments to be negotiated.”