Wes Streeting MP has said that the Labour party’s stance on Brexit is “much clearer” because of discussions at conference, but admitted that he’d rather not leave the EU at all.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell made clear at conference on Monday that they favour a general election rather than a referendum on the final Brexit deal, but several Labour MPs - including Streeting - back a ‘people’s vote’.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has put together a motion urging Labour to keep the option of a second referendum “on the table”, and he refused on Tuesday to rule out whether Article 50 could be extended.
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“I think we’re much clearer as a result of this conference,” said Streeting, joining Julia Hartley-Brewer on the talkRADIO breakfast show.
“We’re keeping open the option of a people’s vote, we want the closest possible relationship to the European Union after Brexit, particularly protecting jobs and livelihoods, and that means the single market, it means the customs union, I think that’s become a lot clearer.”
Watch Wes Streeting's full conversation with Julia Hartley-Brewer
He called the Brexit negotiations “a terrible mess” and said he’d heard his constituents in Ilford expressing concern over the possibility of no deal.
“People are worried about no deal, we’ve got to avoid crashing out with no deal,” Streeting added.
“I would prefer a general election and a Labour government, it’s very unlikely given the polls that the Tories are going to give us that. It’s absolutely the right thing, the responsible thing to do, to keep the option of a people's vote on the table.”
'Who voted in 2016? It was people, not ferrets!'
“Who voted in 2016? It was people, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t given to ferrets!” challenged Hartley-Brewer.
“Why would a second referendum resolve anything more than the first referendum?”
“The benefit of a people’s vote on the final deal is that unlike the referendum, were people were given a pretty clear idea of what it meant to remain - with leave, people were given this big prospectus that we could regain control of our money, laws and borders and thrive economically outside the European Union,” Streeting replied.
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“The reason why Theresa May is having such a tough time of it is she’s trying to deliver the impossible… Given that whatever form we leave in, it’s going to look remarkably different to what was promised, there's a point in principle people should decide on the final deal, not just 650 MPs. Given the hung parliament, given the differing views between political parties, I struggle to see how Theresa May could get any deal through.”
“Given that Remainers like you didn’t accept the result of the 2016 referendum, why would you accept one now?” asked Hartley-Brewer.
“I did, Julia, I voted to trigger Article 50 in good faith, and we tried to make the best of a bad situation, but it’s time to be honest, this Brexit situation is a nightmare and I’d rather we didn’t leave at all,” Streeting admitted.