A shadow cabinet minister has hinted that Labour could go into an early general election offering to hold a referendum on its own version of Brexit.
Barry Gardiner suggested Labour would campaign on a promise to negotiate a better Brexit deal than that secured by Theresa May, and said he personally believed that could then be put to the public.
Labour’s policy is to push for a general election if the prime minister fails to get her Brexit deal through Parliament.
But shadow international trade secretary Gardiner said ‘the quickest way of getting a people’s vote’ is to have a general election because legislating for a referendum would take far longer.
At an election, Labour ‘would set out what we would seek to negotiate in Europe to try and deliver’, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
Then ‘at that stage it makes sense to go to the country’ with the deal on offer, he said.
‘The reason Theresa May has had such a botched set of negotiations is because of her red lines.
‘If we as a new, incoming Labour government were to go to Europe without those red lines we know that we could get a different, better deal and that’s what we want to try and achieve.
‘At that stage it makes sense to go to the country and say ‘here we are, this is what we have managed to negotiate, this is the deal that we have managed to conclude because we don’t have the same red lines as Theresa May, we think it’s a better way forward’.
‘And it seems to me, at a personal level, what I would then say is that is the time when we would then say to people ‘now make your decision on what we have managed to conclude’.’
However while some may take hope from Gardiner’s comments, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry appeared to play down support for a People’s Vote claiming the campaign was seeking to ‘slap the Labour Party around’.
She told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics: ‘What I would like them to be particularly focusing on is taking the arguments as to why we should remain in the European Union to people who voted to leave and to try to change some hearts and minds.
‘Rather than using it – as some people I think do – as an opportunity to attack the Labour Party and the leadership of the Labour Party.’
She added: ‘If there was to be another referendum along the same lines as we had before, I would vote Remain.
‘But what I would like, if we are going to have another referendum, is to win that referendum and for us to remain in the European Union.
‘What concerns me about the People’s Vote movement is that instead of spending their time trying to change people’s minds, they spend their time smacking the Labour Party around the head, some of them.’
A People’s Vote spokesman said Thornberry ‘is badly mistaken’ in her views about the campaign and added: ‘What we are doing is highlighting the biggest poll on Brexit yet which shows that Labour will suffer its worst electoral defeat since the 1930s if it continues promising to enable some sort of Brexit to go ahead.
‘In that situation, it won’t be us slapping the leadership but millions of Labour voters who want the party to fight for the public services, rights and living standards that will otherwise be hammered by any kind of Brexit deal.’
Labour MP Chuka Umunna told Sky News: ‘Let’s not forget that in 2017 a huge number of younger generations voted for the Labour Party hoping that we would take the country on a different trajectory and I’m not sure that we would be forgiven for robbing them of their futures if we don’t actually give them a say on this.’