Tom Watson drops fresh hint Labour could back second Brexit vote amid Tory chaos
Tom Watson has refused to rule out the possiblity of Labour backing a second referendum on the European Union, following a bruising week for Theresa May's Brexit plans.
The Labour deputy leader said it would be a “mistake” to rule out the possibility of a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ on the final Brexit deal.
“It’s not our policy to have a people’s vote, we’ve not called for it, it wasn’t in our manifesto," he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
“But actually as a result of last week it seems to me that to take that off the table completely, when there might be a set of circumstances where parliament cannot deliver a meaningful vote, would be a mistake.”
The comments are the strongest hint yet that Labour could shift towards supporting a second vote if the Prime Minister’s final deal with the European Union does not command support in Parliament.
Mr Watson added: “But we don’t want that [a People’s Vote]… What we actually want is what we have called for the past two years, a meaningful vote in parliament, MPs to discuss the plan and the ability to make changes to that plan so we can be comfortable that there is a majority in our democratically elected House of Commons."
The Labour frontbencher said: "Theresa May’s deal plan might not even survive the fortnight, so for us to try and close things down before we see how that plays out would be a mistake.”
There have been mixed signals from the Labour frontbench on the issue of a second vote in recent months, with Shadow Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer saying ast week that the party was "not ruling out" the option.
But that was contradicted just hours later when Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner took a tougher stance, suggesting voters would see backing for a second-chance referendum on Brexit as patronising.
"I think if we do, politics and politicians in this country will bear an enormous price," he said. "We will have turned round, patted people on the head and said 'there there, you got it wrong but don’t worry we’ll fix it'.".
Mr Watson today insisted that the leaving open possibility of a second vote was not a betrayal of the 2016 referendum and said the UK would be leaving the EU either way.
“Labour MPs voted to trigger Article 50," he said. "This is all about the deal we get when we leave the EU and that is important because there are millions of families out there who needs us to give them a good deal."