Labour is open to backing a second Brexit referendum, deputy leader Tom Watson has said.
Speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr Show, Jeremy Corbyn’s second-in-command said it was “highly unlikely” the party would begin calling for a poll on the Brexit deal, but when pressed, said “you should always keep your options open”.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald, however, told Sky News’ Niall Paterson he thought it was too late for any re-run of the poll and that Labour should be “bringing the nation together”.
It comes after Owen Smith was sacked as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary for a media interview in which he said the only way Labour could “serve democracy” was to back a referendum on the Brexit deal Theresa May strikes with the EU.
“We’ve never called for a second referendum,” said Watson. “We’ve never included it in our manifesto. We have campaigned for a meaningful vote in Parliament.
Marr said: “You always say this: you’ve never called for it. But that’s a slightly different thing. What I’m saying is: is it off the agenda?”
Watson replied that Labour wanted to change the Government’s position via pressure in Parliament, but that a re-run of the poll was not off the table for the party.
He said: “What we want is we want a meaningful vote. Now, how the course of this ... you should always keep your options open in a negotiation.”
“Now, I think it is highly, highly unlikely we will be calling for a second referendum.
“What we want is a meaningful vote and to apply pressure to get the Government to change its position.”
Watson also said that Smith, who claimed he was representing the views of Labour Party members, was rightly sacked.
He said he was “disappointed” to see him go but said he failed to keep to shadow cabinet rules, which say top figures must keep to an agreed position.
“He does know how collective responsibility works and when you join the shadow cabinet, you may have your own personal views but you are there representing the views of the Labour Party.
″To be honest, I don’t think Jeremy had any choice but to ask him to stand down.”
McDonald said: “I campaigned vociferously to remain in the EU. That’s how I voted and I was hugely disappointed by the outcome.
″But we have got the decision and we have got to work collectively within the Labour Party to try to heal the nation.”
He added: “But I would just ask people to think through: where would that get us if we were to go down that path of that second referendum at this stage. It is about bringing the nation together.”