Brexit latest: Labour refuses to say if public vote is a ‘red line’ in negotiations with Theresa May

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Shadow minister Rebecca Long Bailey refused to say if the party would back a new referendum

Labour has refused to say whether a second public vote on Brexit is one of its “red lines” in negotiations with the government.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey also hit back at claims from the Conservatives that her side has been stalling, saying “we’re certainly not dragging our heels”.

Asked by Sky News host Sophy Ridge if a second referendum was one of Labour’s “red lines”, she said Jeremy Corbyn and his team were “not being hugely prescriptive on the minute detail of specific elements because we are willing to compromise and we are willing to be flexible”.

Ms Long-Bailey will join shadow chancellor John McDonnell, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman and senior aides in talks with Government counterparts on Monday.

Brexit red lines

Pressed on whether they would require a proposed deal be put to a public vote, Ms Long Bailey refused to say, but added that if they were not met then “all options are on the table which includes campaigning for a public vote”.

Ms Ridge said that sounds like a second referendum was not a red line for Labour, asking: “Correct me if I’m wrong?”

Ms Long-Bailey replied: “No, a public vote in the event of the situation that I’ve just outlined has always been our party policy, now we have to be flexible in where we move on, we’ve got to keep all options on the table and that’s what we’re doing.

“So until we find out out what the final deal vote will be, we are of course pushing the Government to consider the policy option that we have which is a public vote to avoid a damaging no-deal Brexit or a bad deal, and they are considering that.

“They haven’t come back with any confirmation as to whether they’ll move on that red line as they haven’t with a number of their other red lines, but certainly we’re outlining our party policy very very clearly.”

Labour executive vote

Challenged about Labour’s policy on a referendum, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I expect the NEC will endorse Labour’s policy that came out of the conference.”

The conference policy keeps the option of a referendum on the table, but pro-EU Labour MPs have said it should be a condition of any Brexit deal.

Mr Gwynne said: “I want to ensure that we avoid a bad Tory Brexit or a no-deal scenario. In those circumstances, yes, I think that wasn’t on the ballot paper in 2016, we should then perhaps ask the people ‘is this actually what you want, a confirmatory vote, do you support what the Government’s proposition is?’.

“But let’s see what comes out of these talks because I hope that the Government can move on some of these red lines so that we can get a more sensible approach towards Brexit going forwards.”

Shadow cabinet divide

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson encouraged members to lobby NEC representatives “if you want them to support a confirmatory ballot on a Brexit deal”.

But shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said those pushing for a referendum on any Brexit deal were seeking a change in Labour policy.

The party’s policy agreed at conference was for a referendum “to stop a no-deal or to stop a bad Theresa May deal”, he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics.

Additional reporting by Press Association 

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