POLITICS
24/09/2018 14:16 BST | Updated 25/09/2018 09:18 BST

Keir Starmer Contradicts John McDonnell, Says EU Membership Could Be On Second Referendum Ballot

'Nobody was ruling out Remain.'

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has slapped down John McDonnell for suggesting the option of remaining in the EU should not be on the ballot paper in any second referendum.

On Monday morning the shadow chancellor said if the public was given a vote it should just be on the terms of the Brexit deal – not a re-run of the 2016 referendum.

But quizzed this afternoon on whether McDonnell was right, Starmer said: “The question of a public vote should be open. We weren’t ruling out options and nobody was ruling out ‘Remain’.

“There were 300 people in the room and that was absolutely clear,” he said.

Late last night local party and union delegates agreed the exact wording of the motion to be put to a vote at Labour conference on Tuesday.

Party members will be asked to agree that “if we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”.

McDonnell toured TV and radio stations this morning and appeared to rule out giving the public the chance to stop Brexit.

“We argued for ‘Remain’ in the past but we lost that vote so we have to respect that,” he told the BBC.

“If we are going to respect the referendum it will be about the deal,” he said of any so-called People’s Vote.

His comments triggered an immediate backlash from Labour MPs who are pushing for a vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Chris Leslie said not including the option to stay in the EU would be “utterly ridiculous”.

David Lammy said “millions” of people had been campaigning for another vote.

“They did not do this to be offered a farcical referendum on No Deal or a Bad Deal. It absolutely must include the right to remain in the EU,” he said.

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite union, also yesterday said it would be “wrong” to allow any referendum to include the option abandoning Brexit entirely.

And speaking on the fringes of the Labour conference on Sunday evening, Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, also said there should be “no second referendum on the principle” of EU membership.

Serwotka said if a general election could not be forced on May then “any vote that is then campaigned for by our movement should not be a vote to revisit the question of in or out”.

“It should be a vote to bring down the government. A vote of no confidence to reject her deal and have Corbyn and McDonnell negotiate in workers’ interests with the EU,” he said.

But Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour MEPs, told a separate meeting attended by Starmer this afternoon that people should have the right to stop Brexit.

“The option of having another vote with the possibility of ‘Remain’ should and must be on the table,” he said.