Confusion among Labour's top team as senior figures disagree over second EU referendum

Posted On: 
17th December 2017

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has refused to rule out a second EU referendum - just an hour after his shadow cabinet colleague Diane Abbott said the party does not support the policy.

Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn
PA Images

Last week, the Shadow Brexit Secretary gave the biggest hint yet that Labour may support giving the public an opportunity to reverse last year’s vote and remain in the bloc.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show if Labour would back a second referendum, the Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer replied: “We haven't called for a second referendum, things are moving so fast it's hard to know what's going to come next but we are not calling for it.”

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But today Ms Abbott and Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner both said their party does not support a second referendum on Brexit. 

The party’s position was then thrown into further confusion when the Deputy Leader refused three times to rule out another vote. 

Mr Watson told Pienaar’s Politics that when involved in complex negotiations “you should not rule anything out”. 

“We’ve not said we want a second referendum. What we actually want is a negotiated settlement,” he added. 

“In the circumstances where that deal comes back and Parliament rejects it, what we think should happen is Theresa May should either go back and try and renegotiate or she should stand aside and let a government come in and negotiate a deal which is acceptable to parliament .

Earlier, Ms Abbott told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: “The Labour party doesn’t support a second referendum. We’ve never supported it; we don’t now.”

While Mr Gardiner told Sky's Paterson on Sunday: “'The Labour Party has not said we will have a second referendum. We will honour the referendum result.”


Elsewhere on Pienaar’s Politics, Mr Watson said if the Labour party were in power, he would not be made deputy prime minister. 

He said the role would “probably” go to Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry instead.

“I think [Jeremy Corbyn] would probably give it to EmilyThornberry if I'm being honest.

“No hard feelings Emily,” he added.