Owen Smith: I would consider re-joining the EU after Brexit
Owen Smith has said he would consider applying to re-join the European Union if he becomes Prime Minister in 2020.
The Labour leadership contender has already pledged to hold a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal with Brussels.
But this morning he went further and said he would consider trying to rejoin the bloc - even if it meant joining the euro and the Schengen no borders zone.
The Pontypridd MP argued that once the British people saw the effects that leaving the EU would have on the economy and the NHS, they would be willing to change their minds about leaving.
Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Smith was asked what his position would be were he to enter Downing Street in four years' time.
He said: "It's very hard to answer because it's a hypothetical question. I think if at that point we'd gone into a further recession, if we had the prospect of another 10 years of Tory austerity, if they were saying the price for our staying out is opening up the NHS to private sector competition, it is worse terms and conditions, more flexibility and 'less red tape' as the Tories would no doubt dub it, I think the sensible and responsible thing for a Labour government to do is to say we're better off in the European Union."
Pressed on whether this meant potentially applying to re-join the EU, Mr Smith replied: "Depending on what it looks like, yes. I'm an internationalist and a collaborator and a cooperator, I want us to be part of the European Union."
When asked whether this would mean joining the euro and Schengen, he said: "Potentially, but again we're getting into hypotheticals built on hypotheticals. I think the key thing is they've not said definitively, there was a couple of weeks ago they were briefing it might be 2019 before we trigger Article 50."
Mr Smith claimed that people in Labour's northern heartlands who voted for Brexit might change their minds once they see the consequences of leaving the bloc.
"It depends, doesn't it, when this happens because if we've gone into a further recession, if the NHS is on its knees, as it is right now, if we've got the prospect of more Tory austerity then I think we would be telling a very different story to the British people," he said.
"And I think people in those northern cities don't want more reductions in their livelihoods, they want to see investment in their communities and Labour at that point, at some point in the future, I think would make a really strong case for us to stay within the EU. "
Mr Smith's latest intervention comes as Boris Johnson launches a cross-party group to make sure the Government delivers on the referendum result.
The Foreign Secretary is supporting Change Britain, a group that includes leading Vote Leave figures including Tory MP Michael Gove and Labour's Gisela Stuart and Frank Field.
Change Britain’s aims include to “return control over borders, laws, money and trade from the EU to the UK".
But the group has already come in for criticism for apparently omitting any reference on their website to Vote Leave’s pledge to put Britain’s contribution to the EU budget towards the NHS.
In a video launching the campaign, Mr Johnson said: "On 23 June the people of this country voted to leave the European Union and they voted for change.
"They did so by a clear majority. But there were many people who also voted for remain.
"So it's absolutely vital that we work together, Leavers and Remainers, as we seize the opportunities that this country now has to forge a positive and exciting new relationship not just with the European Union but also with the rest of the world; changing Britain and making it global again.
"Now more than ever we need to show the British people that as politicians we are listening to what they have to say."