Second Brexit vote 'hypothetical', say Labour frontbenchers

A senior frontbencher, hypothetically

Two senior shadow cabinet members have distanced Labour from a second Brexit referendum just a day after party delegates voted to keep the option on the table.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said the party would not include a new referendum in its manifesto if a general election was called before March.

Her justice colleague Richard Burgon said if Jeremy Corbyn's party was in power now it would be negotiating a Brexit deal.

It came after shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer yesterday won a standing ovation from Labour conference delegates when he said "nobody is ruling out Remain as an option" in a fresh vote.

The event in Liverpool voted overwhelmingly to keep the option of a new vote "on the table", after he explicitly said it could include the option of staying in the EU.

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Long-Bailey told BBC Radio 5 Live that Starmer's motion, hammered out after a late-night meeting, respected the 2016 referendum result.

Asked if a new vote would be among a list of manifesto pledges if Theresa May sent the country to the polls before Brexit day in March, she said "no".

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She added that a second referendum was "hypothetical", adding: "What we have said is that, in a very extreme set of circumstances, nothing should be ruled out, and that includes a People's Vote."

She said it was not impossible Labour would vote to support a deal made by the prime minister, but added "we are a long way away" from anything the party could back being produced.

Burgon said Labour's policy remained that "we accept and respect the outcome of the referendum".

Asked on LBC radio about Starmer leaving open the door to a second poll, he said: "Who knows where history is going to go?

"The Labour Party isn't calling for a second referendum.

"Labour has our own vision of Brexit, respecting, accepting the outcome of the referendum."

Fellow MP Graham Stringer, a Leave supporter, claimed there could be "real electoral peril" if the EU referendum result was not implemented.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Sir Keir's motion was a "classic Labour Party conference fudge".

But party deputy leader Tom Watson backed the shadow Brexit secretary.

Asked who spoke for the Labour Party on Brexit, Watson told Radio 4's Today programme: "Well, very thankfully, for me personally, it's Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, and I thought he did a brilliant speech yesterday, I thought the conference united around him.

"So I think we come of this conference very united with a Brexit position and that will probably be in stark contrast to the Tory conference next week."

Labour MP Virendra Sharma MP, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, described Long-Bailey and Burgon's comments as "a bit of a cop-out".

He said: "If we want to show we're seriously listening to the public, it's clear we need to include a People's Vote with the option to stay in our manifesto in the event of an early general election - that's what our members want.

"Conference has shown us that we risk ducking the Brexit issue at our own peril. We should take the bull by the horns and offer the remain option that poll after poll has shown a majority of the country want."

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