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Starmer on second EU referendum: sensible to keep ‘all options on the table’

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer stressed that Labour was not calling for a second vote but Parliament must decide what happens.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer insisted that Labour would not take the option of a second referendum off the table if Parliament votes down a Brexit deal or the UK fails to reach agreement with Brussels.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he would like a general election if Theresa May failed to get a deal through Parliament, but Sir Keir said nothing should be ruled out.

He stressed that Labour was not calling for a “people’s vote” on the deal but “the sensible thing is to keep all our options on the table”.

He told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Should the Article 50 deal that the Prime Minister brings back be voted down or worse there’s no deal, then that’s a very serious situation and we’re going to have to confront it when we get there and that Parliament must decide what happens next.

“And in those circumstances it seems to me the sensible thing is to keep all our options on the table.”

Labour peer and former EU commissioner Lord Mandelson said the party should explicitly commit to a second vote.

“I think that the Labour Party should say that the Government has got itself up shit creek without a paddle,” he told BBC’s Sunday Politics.

He added that “the Labour Party’s job is to put the economy first” and “it has got to say ‘we cannot continue on this course, we have got to back out'”.

But shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner told the programme “it is absolutely not our policy” to have a second referendum.

He suggested that the best interests of the UK and the best economic interests of the UK “are not the same thing” – and the referendum result had to be respected.

“We want a Brexit that is for jobs and the economy, putting them first – but a Brexit that puts them first.

“The point is that, actually, democracy matters.”

But Tory chairman Brandon Lewis seized on Sir Keir’s comments to claim Labour was edging towards supporting a fresh plebiscite.

“We’re moving forward, and they want to turn the clock back two years,” he claimed.

Sir Keir said the plans agreed by Mrs May’s Cabinet were “unworkable” and a “fudge”.

He lashed out at the Chequers proposals, saying they were a “bureaucratic nightmare”, as he called on the Prime Minister to put them to a vote in the Commons.

He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I’m afraid it’s got fudge written all over it.

“If you look at the facilitated customs arrangement, the sort of heart of this, it’s a rebadging of the partnership and it’s based on the idea that at the border you can distinguish between goods that are going to stay in the UK and those going to the EU.

“It’s unworkable, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare, so this a fudge.”

The Labour frontbencher called for MPs to be given the chance to vote between Labour and the Government’s customs plans.

He said: “We’ve now got two propositions, we’ve got the Labour proposition which I think has the majority support in Parliament, and the Prime Minister’s new proposition, let’s put it to a vote.

“I challenge the Prime Minister: put it to a vote and see where the majority is in Parliament on a customs union.”

And Sir Keir hinted support for giving EU citizens preferential treatment under a future immigration policy, after Mrs May refused to rule it out.

He said: “I accept the principle that if you want the right deal with the EU and we do that that is going to involve preferential treatment for EU citizens.”

Sir Keir also told the programme Labour wanted a customs union that “does the work of the customs union”.

“What we’re suggesting by a customs union is a customs union that does the work of the customs union – it simply reflects the fact that it’s going to have to be in a new treaty – the EU/UK treaty.”

Press Association

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