WATCH: Fresh Labour split as Barry Gardiner rubbishes Sadiq Khan's call for second Brexit vote

Posted On: 
16th September 2018

A second Brexit referendum would throw the Government "a lifeline", Labour frontbencher Barry Gardiner has said, as he pushed back against his colleague Sadiq Khan's call for a fresh vote.

The Shadow International Trade Secretary has been among the Labour frontbench's most vocal opponents of a second vote
Credit: 
Sky News

London mayor Mr Khan today became the most prominent Labour figure to back a so-called 'People's Vote' on the final Brexit deal Theresa May strikes with Brussels.

He argued another referendum would let voters "take back control" over a process that had become "mired in confusion and deadlock".

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But Mr Gardiner - a frequent critic of calls for a fresh vote - said Labour should instead focus its efforts on trying to "change the government" as talks with the European Union go down to the wire.

"Actually to have a second referendum would be to throw this government a lifeline," he told Sky News host Sophy Ridge.

The Shadow International Trade Secretary added: "Here we have a PM who is facing going to parliament with whatever she eventually manages to conclude with the European Union and find that it is not possible to get it through the British parliament.

"In those circumstances I think the right thing to do is to say if this government cannot do what it is supposed to... then we need actually to change the government.

"Calling for a second referendum is really giving her a lifeline because then she can say ‘if I can’t get it through parliament I’ll go back to the people’. But what does she go back to the people on?"

Mr Gardiner has previously warned that a second referendum would be "really, really damaging" - and even suggested it could spark "civil unrest".

But Mr Khan - who was this week nominated to stand again as the Labour mayoral candidate - told the BBC's Andrew Marr that Brexit in its current form posed "real" threats to the UK economy.

He said: "You know what would be so incredibly divisive is if the public didn't have a say on the outcome of the negotiations and it leads to livelihoods being damaged, leads to businesses suffering, leads to the possibility - and this is now a real possibility - of our national security being weakened because we can't have the same access to information with our European colleagues as we have now."

Labour frontbenchers have repeatedly said a second referendum is not party policy - however they have refused to entirely rule one out.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell - a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn - has said Labour will not take “any options off the table” as Theresa May tries to hammer out a deal with the EU.

Justifying the party's stance on Sunday, Mr Gardiner said: "The reason we have not ruled anything out is because nobody knows what is going to happen over the next weeks… we have to be flexible because we have to respond to the situation as it arises."

But he added: "The first referendum caused real division in our society. I think the challenge now is actually to try and heal society."