Andrew Adonis has claimed his controversial Facebook post on Brexit had been ‘misunderstood’ by fellow Remain supporters.
The Labour MEP candidate, who has been a leading campaigner for a People’s Vote, angered many allies last week with his statement which many critics interpreted as endorsing a ‘Labour Brexit’, without the need for a second referendum.
In an interview with The New European – for whom Adonis is a columnist – he insisted his views on Brexit had not changed at all.
‘I’ve not in any way changed or softened my own personal views – they are Remain,’ he said. ‘They are exactly the same.’
He went on: ‘I think they [Remainers] misunderstood the statement.’
In the statement, Adonis said: ‘Labour has put forward a sensible alternative plan that would ensure a close economic relationship with the EU after Brexit.’
His comments were widely interpreted as backing Labour’s plan for a soft Brexit, with the option for a referendum only if that cannot be delivered.
Adonis has previously been unequivocal in his opposition to any form of Brexit and his post left many supporters baffled.
However, in his interview, Adonis insisted: ‘I do not believe there is now a viable Brexit that can be delivered democratically without a People’s Vote including an option to remain.
He said that his post was ‘simply a statement of existing Labour party policy’.
‘I always make clear I remain strongly in favour of a People’s Vote,’ he added.
‘The reason I couldn’t state that last week, as Labour policy, is because the National Executive Committee (NEC) is in the throes of deciding what the policy will be on a second referendum.’
He added: ‘I have always been clear that we need a People’s Vote, but obviously the Brexit option in any such vote should be the most credible option going, so Labour is absolutely right to be seeking a soft Brexit rather than a hard Brexit, provided that there is a confirmatory referendum with an option to Remain.’
He acknowledged that his decision to stop operating as a ‘freelance’ anti-Brexit campaigner, and to stand as a Labour candidate, was fraught with risk.
He said the most important thing for the pro-EU cause was to secure Labour’s backing for a second referendum, and that this practical objective was more important than Remainer purity.
‘What I’m going for is the crown jewels, which is a firm Labour commitment to a referendum,’ he said.
‘Because if you can get that commitment then I believe we will get the referendum.
‘It doesn’t matter how vocal and pure the Remain movement is – if Labour don’t come to a referendum there will not be one.’
He admitted the tactic was not guaranteed to be successful.
‘I’m afraid that’s what happens at that level in politics,’ he said. ‘If you fail, you fail spectacularly.’
‘If Labour don’t commit, it will be a huge dent to my personal credibility – but it will be worse for the country, and that’s what matters.
‘I think I’ve done exactly the right thing, which is put my credibility on the line.’
In his Facebook post, Adonis also apologised for his comments – made on LBC radio in September – that Brexit voters should not vote for Labour.
Pro-Brexit parties have since used a clip of the recording to undermine support for Labour in the campaign for the European elections.
Adonis said he had to apologise for those comments, and encourage all voters to support Labour in the election. He also said he respected the result of the 2016 vote.
‘I completely respect the result of the referendum in the sense that I don’t question its validity.’
But, he said, respecting the referendum was ‘completely consistent’ with supporting a confirmatory vote on the deal.
‘The referendum authorised negotiations,’ he said, ‘and we have had three years of negotiations.
‘Respecting the referendum now means giving the people a say, once they know the deal.
‘It requires us to have a second referendum, now that we know the Brexit deal itself.’
He said that while there was a ‘chasm’ of difference between his own views and those of his party on Brexit when he appeared on LBC seven months ago, the landscape was now different.
‘It’s no longer possible to say that a People’s Vote is simply ‘on the table’, which was our conference policy agreed last year,’ he said.
There has been a vast change in attitudes to a second referendum the mood at high levels in the party, he said, with growing numbers of senior figures now in support and that it was now time for the leadership to acknowledge that the ‘six tests’ – the requirements agreed at conference for an acceptable Brexit – will not be met.
‘There’s some parts of the party leadership that want to defer this decision almost indefinitely,’ he said, although he refused to name names.’
‘But there has to be a manifesto [for the EU elections], and that’s why the issue has come to a head.
‘What we actually now need to do is give the British people their own view … [and] make it the view of the Labour party.’