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Push for second Brexit referendum 'is not Labour policy'

Barry Gardiner
Barry Gardiner

By Alain Tolhurst

A senior Labour frontbencher has denied that the party's official Brexit policy is to push for a second referendum despite a host of senior colleagues backing a new public vote.

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Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary and a former junior minister in Northern Ireland, said Jeremy Corbyn's number one aim was to force a general election if a deal that "would be acceptable to the broad majority within Parliament" cannot be found.

Speaking to BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show, he said their position was originally "remain and reform" the EU, but switched to help to try and "secure the referendum result and to get a deal and to make sure that we left the EU".

He said the Government "failed to do that through their own incompetence and the intransigence of the red lines that they laid down".

Mr Gardiner explained: "Now we are in the position where our party conference set out very clearly that if we could not get a deal that was acceptable, if we were facing a disastrous no-deal situation, then we would do everything we could to stop that, and that means a second public vote, either through a general election or through a second referendum."

Pressed on whether "the official Labour Party position now is for a second referendum", he said: "It's exactly the same as it was at the party conference, which is that if we could not get that, then of course we would oppose no deal. We would look either for a public vote or, indeed, for a general election to do that." On Saturday, Scottish Labour confirmed it will call for a public vote on any Brexit deal and campaign for Remain in another EU referendum.

Its leader Richard Leonard said: "I am pleased that Scottish Labour's Executive Committee has endorsed my call for the party to back a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal, with Remain as an option on the ballot paper."

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