Labour frontbench split over no-deal option in second EU referendum

Posted On: 
2nd December 2018

Two senior Labour frontbenchers are at odds over the possibility of including a no-deal option on any future EU referendum ballot.

The pair have presented alternative views of what question would be put to the public

The party have kept the prospect of a second Brexit vote on the table, saying they could support it if they fail to force a general election in the wake of the meaningful Brexit vote.

Up to 100 Tory MPs are expected to vote against Mrs May's plan when it goes before MPs on 11 December.

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But the party’s Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and Shadow International Trade secretary Barry Gardiner have thrown Labour’s position into confusion after they disagreed on what options should be presented to the public if a second referendum was held.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Gardiner said he would support Remain in any second referendum, but believed voters should be given the choice to vote for a no-deal Brexit.

“I campaigned to Remain and if there was another referendum, in all probability, I would vote for Remain,” he said.

He added: “If the deal doesn’t go through as she has presented it then we call for a vote of no confidence and a general election. If, for any reason, that does not happen then we have ruled nothing else out, including a second referendum, in which Remain and I think no-deal would both be on the table.”

But speaking to Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday, Sir Keir said he would be “worried” about including a no-deal option.

“We are going to have to decide that as a Parliament when we get to that stage but I’ve always been very clear that the option of Remain ought to be on the ballot paper,” he said.

Asked if he thought no-deal should be included, he added: “I would be worried about that because no-deal would be catastrophic for the country, and I don’t think people have necessarily thought through all the implications of no-deal.

"If you’ve got no-deal you’ve got no trading relationship with your most important set of trading partners. But you’ve also got no security relationship. No arrangements for dealing with counter-terrorism… We shouldn’t be casual about no-deal. It has huge risks for our country."

He added: “I’m not stating a fixed position here. We are not at that position of the exercise. We are at the first stage, which is obviously the deal. All I am pointing out, and it is a point for the vote in nine days, is that the option for no-deal would be a huge risk.”

A senior Labour source said: "It's a hypothetical question that would be a matter for parliament."