News | Published June 17 2019

Tom Watson: Labour must back second referendum

Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson has called on his party to take a pro-second referendum stance on Brexit.

Watson described a second referendum as “the least worst” option, telling the BBC that Labour should fight to remain even if it comes at the cost of “some votes”.

This defies party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has thus far remained unmoved on calls to support a so-called "People's Vote".

"Sometimes in politics your choices are the least worst option," Watson told the BBC.

"It is my honestly held view that Parliament will not be able to get a deal on Brexit and therefore the only choice, reluctantly, is to ask the people to take another look at it.”

Labour’s struggles in the European Parliament elections were squarely blamed on its failure to clearly outline its position on Brexit, as the party came third behind the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Watson did also warn that the party would pay a “very high electoral price” if its present stance persists.

The Labour Party remains divided on the issue with some MPs representing heavily pro-Leave constituencies warning against the backlash of supporting another referendum.

Yet according to Watson, the hearts of Labour members are very much in the Remain camp and stopping Brexit entirely was not beyond the realms of possibility.

Watson, addressing the Centre for European Reform, said: “Pro-European is who we are. Our members are Remain. Our values are Remain. Our hearts are Remain.

“I think it's incumbent on [the Labour Party] to give an honest account of ourselves and make the case for why we’ve changed our position”.

But Watson did concede that all members of the party are entitled to their opinions.

Meanwhile, during Watson's speech, Labour chairman Ian Lavery aired his views on Twitter, saying that it would not be a good idea for Labour to change stance and simply “ignore Leave voters”.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
June 17 2019

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