Thornberry sparks Twitter storm after appearing to claim 70% wanted out

Emily Thornberry on Sky News. Photograph: Sky.

Emily Thornberry on Sky News. Photograph: Sky. - Credit: Archant

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry bemused viewers after she appeared to claim that 70% of the United Kingdom supports leaving the EU.

Speaking on Sky News, the Labour frontbencher said that she believed a second referendum would help to resolve the Brexit impasse, but Labour believed that a general election was the best course of action for the country if there was a complete breakdown in the House of Commons.

While she believed Labour would campaign to Remain during a fresh referendum campaign, she could not clarify Labour's position on Brexit should there be a general election.

She said that there was a 'strong argument' that any position from the opposition would need to represent what the people had voted for - in favour of Brexit.

'We are democrats on top of anything else, the people voted for Leave, then we have to leave, and it is our job to ensure on terms that cause the least amount of damage to jobs and the economy.'

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She said that in her heart 'she wanted to stay' but being 'democrats' topped Labour's position of being 'internationalists and Europeans'.

'I think that we are likely to leave the EU but I think it is something we need to agree ourselves and I think that there is a strong argument for asking the people to have a final say on this.

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'I think that it is quite difficult for us to leave the European Union, most of us campaigned for Remain. I think in our hearts we want to remain, but the difficulty is that we have to square that with democracy. We are democrats above everything else.'

Thornberry then appeared to claim that 70% supported leaving the EU, before saying 'some honesty needs to be injected into this'.

She said: 'I personally don't really understand why 70% of the population at this moment don't want to remain in the EU. But they don't. I personally think the reason for that is because we've not had the sort of debate we need to have.'

In the June 2016 EU referendum, Brexit won by a tight majority of 52% to 48%, and opinion polls have consistently put Remain ahead of Leave ever since.

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Thornberry's statistic left Twitter users scratching their heads.

Andrew Herring said: 'Where did Thornberry get the figures of '70% of people now want to leave the EU'? Would have thought it would be the other way round and 70% now want to Remain!'

Richard Approximately tweeted: 'Emily Thornberry just said 70% of people don't want to remain in the EU? Where the fuck is she getting her figures from? Jeez, Labour is a fucking mess.'

Chris Jones wrote: 'Emily Thornberry: '70% of the population at this moment don't want to remain in the European Union.' This is just made up on the spot. It has no bearing in reality.'

Thornberry later tweeted a clarification saying that she had not expressed herself 'clearly enough.'

'I was trying to say that I can't really understand why 70% of the public are not in favour of remaining by now - but there isn't evidence that there has been that sort of shift.'

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