A Labour frontbencher has denied that the party’s official Brexit policy is to push for a second referendum despite voices in the party offering unequivocal support – including its Scottish party.
Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, 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 on 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”.
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”, Gardiner replied: “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.”
Marr questioned why he “can’t just say yes” when Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the party leaders in Scotland and Wales are among senior figures who have all called for a second referendum in recent weeks.
Gardiner said it was because as the opposition party, Labour has the power to call an election by passing a motion of no confidence in the government, but was not able to call for a referendum.
He said: “The point is this: that in order to get a second referendum, the government would have to introduce legislation and the government have made it clear that they don’t want to do that.
“We could force their hand for a general election because we can introduce that, we have the power to introduce that motion of no confidence.
“So, I’m very happy to go for a second referendum and I’ve told you if the government is going to do that I would be delighted.”
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, who announced his backing for a clearer stance on Brexit following “an incredibly bad result” in the European election, 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.
“Scottish Labour will wholeheartedly campaign for a Remain victory in such a vote.”