Shadow chancellor says a second poll would ‘inevitably’ require Remain option
John McDonnell yesterday said the UK may be forced to hold a so-called People’s Vote and claimed it was “inevitable” that a second Brexit poll would include a Remain option.
The shadow chancellor said that there may be “no other option” than to hold another referendum if a new Brexit deal cannot be negotiated or there is no general election.
Mr McDonnell denied suggestions by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey that a People’s Vote would be a betrayal of the 2016 Leave result.
On a visit to Glasgow, Mr McDonnell said Labour was making a “sincere attempt” to bring parties together around the party’s vision of keeping the UK in the customs union while retaining close ties to the single market.
The shadow chancellor said Labour wanted a Brexit deal that would protect jobs and the economy.
“If we can’t do that, we need a general election to change the negotiating team,” Mr McDonnell said.
“If we can’t do that, people will recognise we have no other option but to consider another public vote.
“People will respect us for doing our best to implement the spirit of the referendum itself. But we have got to resolve this issue. We can’t go on like this.”
Mr McDonnell answered “No” when asked if he agreed with Mr McCluskey’s view that another vote would be a betrayal. When asked if he thought Remain should be an option on the People’s Vote ballot paper, he replied that it was “inevitable”.
“If it was, I would vote Remain,” he added.
Mr McDonnell also signalled that he would not do a Westminster deal that would see Labour back indyref2 in return for SNP support in the House of Commons.
He said he was opposed to a second referendum on Scottish independence but stopped short of confirming that an anti-indyref2 stance would be written into a Labour general election manifesto.
The shadow chancellor was asked if he would be open to granting the Nicola Sturgeon the power to stage another independence referendum in return for SNP support at Westminster.
“When we win the next election, we will win it with a significant majority, full stop. If we didn’t get a significant majority and we were in a minority position we would govern as a minority government,” Mr McDonnell said.
“We would lay out our policies and lay out our manifesto and it would then be for other parties to support or not. That would be their decision.”
He said Labour opposed future referendums but added that the contents of the party’s next general election manifesto had yet to be decided. He added that he would “consider” the Scottish Parliament’s pro-independence mandate “if that arises”.
“We draft our manifestos democratically,” Mr McDonnell said. “We have what we call a clause five meeting. But in the last manifesto we said we were opposed, full stop. We want a united country that will concentrate on those issues. I can’t see that policy changing.”
Ahead of the Scottish Budget due to be presented next week, he said that Scottish Labour’s commitment to a higher income tax regime than that advocated by the UK party was what devolution “was all about”.
Mr McDonnell has backed Chancellor Philip Hammond’s proposal to raise the 40p higher income threshold to £50,000 at Westminster – a move that is not supported by Scottish Labour.