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John McDonnell: I want a general election not second EU referendum

Another Brexit referendum would cause further division, the shadow chancellor said.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said he would rather have a general election than a second EU referendum.

Mr McDonnell said another Brexit referendum would cause divisions again and the “better route” is to have a general election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously stopped short of ruling out a second EU referendum when the Brexit terms are known.

Mr Corbyn insisted last month that he was not calling for a new national poll on withdrawal, but sidestepped questions on whether he could change his stance in the future.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston On Sunday, Mr McDonnell said a second Brexit referendum would “divide the country again”, adding: “Those divisions are really still there.”

He said he would worry about opening up the potential of “right wing xenophobia”, but added: “We’d never turn our back on democratic engagement.”

Mr McDonnell told Peston: “Well I think better we have a general election. Better we have a general election. On the issue, and all the other issues, because you then have a wider debate as well.”

Mr Corbyn told Peston last month: “We are not supporting or calling for a second referendum. What we have called for is a meaningful vote in Parliament.”

When it was put to Mr Corbyn that he was not saying he would never support another referendum, the Labour leader said: “We are not calling for one either”.

Asked about a second referendum on any Brexit deal, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show last month: “If 90% of the population was now saying we must stay in the European Union and we must not leave then that would be a challenge that would be there for all of us who are democrats.

“But, at the moment, and as things currently stand, we proceed in good faith, we do as we are instructed and we are leaving the European Union.

“We have said that we must respect the result of the referendum which means that we have to leave, but we have to look after the economy which, in my view, means that we don’t go very far.”

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