'Labour is still a “remain and reform party” over EU membership, Tom Watson has argued, as he said it seemed inevitable that a confirmatory referendum would be needed for the party’s MPs to agree to any Brexit deal.
Speaking after the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, told the Guardian that up to 150 Labour MPs would reject an agreement that did not include a second referendum, Watson said he believed this figure seemed credible.
Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that even though talks with the government over a compromise deal were still ongoing – they are due to resume on Monday – it “would be difficult” to get it through parliament without a new public vote.
“I think the difficulty is just parliamentary arithmetic,” he said. “Keir Starmer has alluded to this today as well, John McDonnell did last week. The whipping arrangements for these deals are very difficult, as MPs have hardened their positions within their parties.”
In a sign of the very different approaches within the shadow cabinet, when asked if Labour was now a Brexit party, something the shadow international trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, concurred with on Sunday, Watson took a different approach.
“We are a remain and reform party, but obviously when it comes to a deal, people could form their own view,” he said.
Watson said he still thought getting a Brexit deal though the Commons was the best option, but had come round to the idea of a second referendum for practical reasons.'
Read more: Labour is a 'remain and reform' party on EU, says Tom Watson
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