Labour is focused on “trying to deliver” Brexit and could agree to an exit deal without a second referendum, Barry Gardiner has said.
The shadow international trade secretary said Labour MPs and members who were insisting the public should get a confirmatory vote on any deal agreed between Labour and the Tories were trying to “change the party’s policy”.
It comes after HuffPost UK revealed the party had produced a European election leaflet which contained no mention of a referendum, to the fury of many party activists.
Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will decide on what will be in its European election manifesto.
Scores of Labour MPs and MEPs have put their names to a letter calling on the NEC to commit to a public vote.
Talks on finding a consensus on Brexit between the Tories and Labour are set to resume this week.
The government is desperate to pass a deal through parliament and take the UK out of the EU to avoid having to hold the MEP elections on May 23.
Polls suggest the Conservative Party faces a drubbing, with Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party gobbling up Tory votes.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, Gardiner said Labour was “trying to deliver on what people voted for” in 2016.
“The party policy at that conference was, to stop a no-deal or to stop a bad Theresa May deal, and we couldn’t get our deal through or something pretty close to it as we’ve outlined it, then of course we would want to have a second referendum. That’s party policy,” he said.
But asked whether the party should commit to an “unqualified” promise to hold a referendum, Gardiner said this would be to “change the party’s policy”.
His comments were echoed by Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator Andrew Gwynne and Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Asked if a confirmatory public vote should be held on “any” Brexit deal, Gwynne would only tell the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that a referendum should happen if there was ”a bad Tory Brexit or a no-deal scenario”
Meanwhile asked if a referendum was a “red line” for Labour in the talks, Long-Bailey told Sky News she “wouldn’t couch it in terms of a second referendum”.
“Our party policy has always been that firstly we want to get a Brexit deal that puts our economy and living standards first and protects our environmental protections, workplace protections, health and safety standards,” she said.