Labour is not trying to “frustrate” the process of leaving the European Union despite keeping open the option of a referendum on remaining in the EU, the Shadow Brexit Secretary has said.
Keir Starmer was given a standing ovation at the Labour Party conference as he confirmed that the possibility of stopping Brexit could be in any future referendum.
The Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras has indicated that the party was set to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit plan when it is put to a vote in the House of Commons.
He said it should trigger a General Election if the Prime Minister was unable to win the approval of Parliament.
He supported the option of a referendum if no General Election is called, something which delegates at the conference will vote on later on Tuesday.
Mr Starmer said he was “devastated” by the 2016 EU referendum.
He said that if Labour could not secure a General Election “we must have other options”.
He added: “That must include campaigning for a public vote.
"It is right that Parliament has the first say but, if we need to break the impasse, our options must include campaigning for a public vote and nobody is ruling out Remain as an option."
‘The Tory civil war’
Mr Starmer’s comments departed from the text on his speech and came after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell indicated that any referendum may be on the terms of Brexit, rather than whether to stop it.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary has insisted there was no division and Mr McDonnell’s initial assessment may have been due to being “up early” for his interviews on Monday.
Mr Starmer added: “The Tory civil war on Europe that has been going on for years now risks our prosperity.
"The party that once promised that it would fix the roof while the sun was shining is now intent on burning the whole house down.
"So I've got a message for the Prime Minister: if your party wants to tear itself apart, that's fine ... but you're not taking our country with you."
He added: “This is not about frustrating the process.
"It is about stopping a destructive Tory Brexit.
"No deal would be a catastrophe and no government has the right to plunge our country into chaos because of their own failures.”
‘That would horrify people’
Ahead of his speech, he told BBC Radio 5 Live a no-deal Brexit would "rupture our trading arrangements and this will cost jobs, I don't doubt that the pound will begin to drop".
He said: "We won't have any arrangements for security and counter-terrorism - I worked, when I was director of public prosecutions, on counter-terrorism work across Europe - the idea that we wouldn't have an arrangement in place for that would horrify people.
"And, frankly, this idea that we might have medicines stockpiled for six weeks has spooked people.
"We don't want to face that situation and we have got a duty to do something to stop it and that's why the option of a public vote is important as something that may have to happen when we get to that stage."