POLITICS
07/02/2019 12:20 GMT

Ex-Labour Leadership Candidate Owen Smith Considering Quitting Party Over Brexit

And the pro-EU MP says more could follow.

Former Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith has said he is considering quitting the party over Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit policy.

Smith, who challenged Corbyn for the leadership in 2016, backs a second referendum.

Corbyn’s decision to indicate he would back Theresa May’s Brexit deal if she agreed to a list of five demands has angered pro-EU Labour MPs.

Speaking to BBC 5 Live on Thursday morning, Smith was asked if he was about to resign from the party.

“I think that is a very good question and I think it’s something I and lots of other people are considering right now,” the Pontypridd MP said.

“I haven’t come to that decision. But I do think I stood to be a Labour MP with an understanding of what I was doing, what my values were, what the values of the Labour Party were, what I wanted to do for the community I grew up in.

“I may be asked by the Labour Party to row in behind a policy decision that the party knows and the government knows is going to make the people I represent poorer.”

Smith added that supporting Brexit was “at odds” with the “internationalist, social democratic values” he believed in.

“Brexit is ultimately a nativist, nostalgic right-wing ideological program that was sold on lies,” he said.

Smith is not the only Labour MP to have hinted they could quit the party. Asked on ITV’s Peston programme last night whether she could walk, Luciana Berger did not rule it out. “There’s a disaffection with the lack of leadership that we’re seeing on all sides,” she said.

In a letter to the prime minister, Corbyn demanded Labour’s priorities be enshrined in the Political Declaration setting out future relations with the EU.

The Labour leader said securing the demands in law was the only way of achieving his support for a deal.

Chuka Umunna, the pro-EU Labour MP for Streatham, dismissed Corbyn’s position as a “complete joke”. 

“This is not opposition, it is the facilitation of a deal which will make this country poorer. A strong, coherent Labour alternative to this shabby, Tory Brexit is absent – it has been since this parliament began. Totally demoralising,” he said.

Chris Leslie, a former shadow chancellor, attacked Corbyn for offering to help “enable” Brexit.

“When the jobs go and revenues for services dry up as a result – Labour’s leadership will have zero right to complain: they share responsibility,” he said.