Ian Lavery rounds on Keir Starmer over second referendum as Labour splits on Brexit erupt

Posted On: 
22nd October 2019

Ian Lavery has attacked Keir Starmer over his support for a referendum on Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

Ian Lavery attacked Keir Starmer during the Shadow Cabinet meeting.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Labour chairman accused his frontbench colleague of defying party policy by backing a plan by backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, who say the withdrawal agreement should be put back to the country in a so-called "confirmatory referendum".

He was supported by Diane Abbott and Dan Carden, who also spoke out against the Kyle-Wilson plan during an ill-tempered meeting of the Shadow Cabinet on Tuesday morning.

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PoliticsHome has learned that Mr Lavery accused Sir Keir, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, of trying to "ram down my throat" his support for a referendum before a general election.

The Wansbeck MP supports holding a general election first, with Labour putting its own Brexit deal to a referendum within six months if it forms the next government.

It is unclear what Sir Keir said in response to Mr Lavery's comments.

One Shadow Cabinet source said: "No one else mentioned Kyle-Wilson apart from Lavery, Diane and Carden. Everyone just assumed we were supporting it."

Another frontbencher who witnessed the clash said: "Ian was very shouty and angry."

It is understood the Shadow Cabinet did not reach an agreed position on the timing of a referendum at the meeting.

MPs are expected to debate calls for a second public vote if the Withdrawal Agreement Bill makes it to committee stage in the Commons.

Labour's official policy remains that a referendum should take place to stop a "Tory Brexit" or no-deal, with the option to remain also on the ballot paper.