Emily Thornberry admits second Brexit referendum 'may be a long way off'

Posted On: 
4th June 2019

Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry has admitted a second referendum on Brexit “may be a long way off” amid turmoil in the party over the issue.

Emily Thornberry previously launched an attack on the Labour leadership over the EU election losses
Credit: 
PA

The Shadow Foreign Secretary accepted that any general election or second referendum will be delayed as the Conservative leadership contest plays out.

Her comments appear to water down her position on the night Labour got a drubbing at the European Parliament elections, when she said the party should have explicitly backed a fresh Brexit vote.

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And they are more closely aligned with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said another public poll would be "some way off".

Asked on the Today programme this morning about her post-election comments on a second referendum, Ms Thornberry said: “It may be a long way off.

"We’ve got to get through another election campaign for the Tories - that’s going to take most of the summer. 

"And then they have to work out what on earth they’re going to do and how they’re going to move this agenda forward, so yes it seems to be quite a long way off."

She added: “And then once a decision [is made] they will either need to call another general election or we will need to have another referendum, we need to go back to the public and ask for their good sense and help break the logjam, therefore it’s likely to be quite a long way off.”

Mr Corbyn has been resisting pressure from his own frontbench to switch to supporting a second referendum after Labour came in third at the EU elections.

When the poll results came in on the night of 26 May, Ms Thornberry blamed his refusal to clearly back a second referendum for the losses. 

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Labour deputy Tom Watson are also among the senior figures to have ramped up calls for a public vote since the results.

But speaking last week, Mr Corbyn said: “We don’t back a re-run of 2016. That happened, that’s gone.

“What I do say is that if Parliament comes to an agreement then it’s reasonable, if Parliament wishes it, there should be a public vote on it. But that is some way off.”

Asked whether Mr Corbyn had “come off the fence” on the poll re-run, Ms Thornberry told the Today programme: “Jeremy has said that we’ve got ourselves into such a place that it is very difficult to know how it is that we get forward, and that we need to go back to the people, whether that’s in a general election or in another referendum.”