Labour Brexit spokesman holds out hope of second referendum and says UK could stay in EU
A shadow Brexit minister has thrown Labour’s EU policy into fresh confusion after he left the door open to a second referendum – and indicated the UK could end up staying in the bloc.
Paul Blomfield suggested the decision to leave could be reconsidered if there were “significant reforms” to the EU in the course of Brexit the negotiations.
And, while making clear that Labour was not calling for another vote on the EU, he said it would be undemocratic to stand in the way of the public if it demanded another referendum.
His comments came hours after Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s lead spokesman on Brexit, attempted to recast the party’s EU policy in a major speech in London.
Mr Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, said Labour would immediately guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens living in the UK if it came to power after the 8 June election.
He also pledged to scrap the Government’s Brexit white paper and replace the Great Repeal Bill with legislation protecting workers’ rights.
Mr Blomfield was repeatedly asked by Sky News if there were any circumstances under which Labour could change its view that the UK had to leave the EU.
“We are going into this election saying that we respect the view of the British people,” he said.
When pressed again, he replied: “Obviously if there were significant reforms that came out of these negotiations which addressed the concerns that led people to vote in the way they did last year, that’s a whole new ball game, isn’t it?
“But in the scenario we’re facing, we’re respecting the outcome of the referendum.”
A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn last week insisted Labour would not support a second referendum on the final terms of Brexit, after the Labour leader had initially failed to rule it out, but Mr Blomfield said today it would be up to the public.
“We are not going into this election calling for a second referendum, we’re not asking people to rethink the decision that they made last year,” he said.
“It may be that some way down the road there will be a popular demand for a second referendum and, as democrats, we would accede to that and I would hope other parties would too.”