Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner has claimed that Labour is not a party of remaining in the EU and that he could not see it supporting a plan for a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal.
MPs are set to consider a motion, tabled in the name of former foreign secretary and Labour politician Dame Margaret Beckett, requiring a public vote before ratification of any deal.
However Gardiner said that if Labour voted for it, it could suggest that they were a ‘Remain party’ – which he said was not the case.
He said that under the terms of the motion, any referendum could be a choice between Theresa May’s deal or staying in the EU.
‘It would be saying we could accept what we have always said is a very bad deal. Therefore it looks as if the attempt to have a public vote on it is simply a way of trying to remain because nobody likes this deal,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
‘To put that up as the only alternative in a public vote and say we will let it go through looks as though you believe that at the end of it Remain would be the result.
‘It is not where our policy has been. Our policy is clearly that we would support a public vote to stop no-deal or to stop a bad deal, but not that we would allow a bad deal as long as the public had the opportunity to reject Brexit altogether.
‘That implies that you are a Remain party. The Labour Party is not a Remain party now. We have accepted the result of the referendum, and we’re trying to get a good deal which is why we have put forward our proposals today.’
He said that options like revoking Article 50 should be ‘ruled out’ along with other ‘extreme options’ like a no-deal Brexit.
Gardiner’s comments have already invoked anger from fellow MPs in his party.
Wes Streeting tweeted: ‘This the complete opposite of what we’ve been told is happening today. The opposite of what @Keir_Starmer told the Commons. The opposite of what @EmilyThornberry said last night. The opposite of what Labour stands for. Urgent leadership needed. We live in hope…’
Jess Phillips tweeted: ‘It is NOT Labour policy only to vote for peoples vote only in circumstances of no deal. NOT AT ALL. It is Labour Policy & has been for years to support compulsory sex & relationship education, guess we’ll see how both are whipped today to see how much we care about members views.’
However Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson clarified on Twitter that whipping arrangements for the votes had not been agreed.
He said: ‘I’ve had many calls about Barry Gardiner’s interview on BBC Radio 4 Today, which I missed. Whipping arrangement have not yet been agreed. I support the Kyle/Wilson amendment.’
Chris Leslie, former Labour MP and member of the Independent Group, said: ‘The depressing reality is this: if you’re still campaigning for Labour, you are now campaigning for Brexit.’