EXCLUSIVE: Labour MP says Article 50 is reversible – and backs second referendum if public want it

In a candid interview with Left Foot Forward, Kate Green MP tells the site Brexit can be stopped - and backs fresh vote if deal is unworkable.

European Scrutiny Committee member and former Shadow Cabinet minister Kate Green has hinted at reversing Brexit and holding a second referendum, in an interview with Left Foot Forward.

She has joined a growing group of rebels calling for the Labour leader to rethink the party’s stance on Brexit.

It comes after polling by BMG Research for Left Foot Forward found that a majority – 57% – of those with a view would back a second referendum if the Pime Minister fails to secure a Brexit deal.

In an exclusive interview at the Fabian Society’s New Year conference, Kate Green opened up about issues of immigration, a second referendum – and rethinking Brexit altogether.

LFF: Do you think Labour are moving in the direction of backing Single Market membership?

“I don’t think we’ve arrived at clarity about what our long-term objective is [on the Single Market]…[But] it’s imperative we arrive at a clear position that keeps us in the Single Market.

“What I think is different from a few months ago is that the party membership are very solidly behind that position…And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the mood of the country is ‘we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.’

“The point at which it will become a real issue is when we have the vote on the final deal, as long as the Prime Minister doesn’t reverse our ability to have that vote in the Report Stage this week. I think it would be a huge betrayal of democracy if she does that.

“The difficulty…is the free movement question. That debate has been suppressed in the last few months – and we need to move from denying it to dealing with it.”

After the interview Kate expanded on the immigration question, telling this site: 

“Labour has been relatively silent on free movement/immigration. It is a concern for many Labour voters (and in my view, was one of the motivations for those who voted leave), but equally it’s clear that many industry sectors are reliant on EU workers to meet their labour needs, and not just for high skilled jobs.

“As things stand, SM [Single Market] membership would bring with it a requirement for free movement, and Labour needs to articulate a clear policy that reassures the public that we would have sensible control over immigration, and also meet our need for labour – including e.g. in the NHS, food processing sectors etc. That’s the challenge.”

Momentum seems to be growing for the call to stop Brexit altogether – not least with Farage’s call for a second referendum. Do you think that’s a possibility?

“People are becoming much more aware of just how difficult it is to leave the European Union…everybody is taken by surprise about how very hard it’s proving to leave, and how many trade-offs and downsides there are even if you’re ideologically in favour of going.

“I think that has opened up a space to debate what the public voted for in 2016 and whether they were fully informed, and therefore whether a more informed debate can now take place – and therefore whether the public want to have their say in light of that new information.

“The other thing…is that many people believe that because Article 50 has been enacted we have to leave, and of course that’s not the case in law – and it may not be the case politically.

“The opportunity to say to people ‘These are the trade-offs you’re being asked to make’ and ‘Do you want to do this, in this way?’…

“If May puts a deal before Parliament and Parliament rejects it, or she can’t carry a majority of her own party, [a new General Election] is a preferred way to resolve that.

“But if the public mood is for a second referendum because there’s so much confusion and concern we’ve been given an unworkable deal, it would be right to give the country the chance to say so.”

And if Parliament rejects the deal put forward by May, is that the point at which you go to the public?

“It’s hard to see how, morally, Theresa May could not go back to the country in some way at that point. That’s not to say it will happen – the Tories are determined to hold on to this, and losing a vote on the deal doesn’t necessarily mean she’s lost a confidence vote…

“But the mood at that point would put immense pressure on any honourable Prime Minister to seek a new mandate…

“If Cameron had been a bit less gung ho there would have been no need for this ridiculous referendum and the result in 2016.

“…We would be in a different space about how you respond to a changing global context where movement of people – a massive international refugee crisis – Europe collectively needs to develop new and radical answers to that.”

Listen to the full interview here: https://soundcloud.com/leftfootforwrd/interview-with-kate-green-mp

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

4 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE: Labour MP says Article 50 is reversible – and backs second referendum if public want it”

  1. Alasdair Macdonald

    If we want another referendum then we need to ensure that as many people who are eligible to vote are on the electoral register and that includes EU nationals and those between 16 and 18 years.

    It is all very well saying that ‘the people have spoken’, but who actually are the people? At one time it did not include women, or those who did not own property, for example.

  2. Chris Lovett

    I’m sure you’re aware of this?

    Since 2004, European Union law has allowed governments to control movements of EU citizens as follows: allow EU citizens to freely circulate only for three months and then require them (should they want to stay longer) to show they are working (employed or self-employed), a registered student or have sufficient resources (pension, savings) to support themselves and comprehensive sickness insurance eg a valid European health insurance card enabling the NHS to claim back the cost of treatment or have private health insurance. The UK is one of the few governments that has not implemented this.
    For six years, Theresa May was in charge of the Home Office responsible for immigration, yet did nothing to adopt these conditions. One wonders why not and why immigration was allowed to dominate the referendum and is still being paraded as a big problem. Yet another failure of our own government and the Home Office under Theresa May is being blamed on the EU. The remedy was always in the UK’s hands.

  3. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    She was one of the more hostile #chickencoup members who have weaponised Brexit now that Antisemitism has lost its power. Keir, Barry, Emily and Jeremy know what they are doing and are working for the benefit of the 100% not the still angry 48%. Why the Backbench right-wingers can’t just let them do their job then, given that Labour is NOT in Govt. The interpretations of what would happen to the UK economy after Brexit are fundamentally flawed and exaggerated according to the LSE and leaving the Single Market may well be in the UK’s economic interest in less than a decade:http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/how-bad-will-brexit-really-be-for-the-uk/

  4. Misha Carder

    Thanks Chris Lovett. People are clearly not aware of this. Appalling that the immigration issue, stirred up by the Mail, Sun and Telegraph swung to vote. Will try to get it across to as many people as possible.

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