This week the Labour party was very publicly divided both over how it should campaign on Brexit and the timing of any second referendum on EU membership. We asked city MP Mark Hendrick and other county Labour MPs for their views.
"It's not a question of what I want. It's a question of what political reality might be able to deliver" - Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick
Preston MP Mark Hendrick called this week for more realism in politics as the split in his own party widened over a Brexit referendum and the choice which should be offered to voters.
Sir Mark said: “It seems a bit if or but, but if everyone said I want this or that nothing is going to get resolved. People have to some degree to compromise and try to get the nation together which I don’t think this Government is interested in doing.”
He said that personally his view was 70% to remain and 30% to leave with a good deal - but certainly never to leave with no deal, but emphasised: “It depends what happens. It’s not a question of what I want. It’s a question of what political reality might be able to deliver...it’s what is politically deliverable.”
Looking to any future referendum he said: “There are people saying how they would feel and what they want, but as a politicians we have to deal with the circumstances as they are, not as you would like them to be.”
He continued: “In the current set up unless the courts rule otherwise we’re not back (in Parliament) until October, then we have to look at the political situation then.
“One thing that is very alarming and distressing is the Prime Minister is trying his best to give the impression he is prepared to break the law and leave with no deal, which in a parliamentary democracy is outrageous.”
He described the prorogation of Parliament as: “purely a tactic to close down parliament”.
The divisions within the Labour party surfaced after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday promised a future referendum with a choice of a “credible leave option” or a remain option if Labour won control after a general election. He said the first priority was to stop no deal and then to trigger a general election.
Just hours later deputy leader Tom Watson said Labour should be campaigning to remain in Europe and its priority should be to reverse Brexit. He said: “We should unambiguously and unequivocally back remain.”
He maintained the only way to break the “Brexit deadlock” was to have a referendum as a general election could fail to solve Brexit chaos, but acknowledged an election was likely to come first.
Sir Mark, who is also a former MEP, said: “We would much prefer a referendum than what we’ve got at the moment. The way I look at it we were given a choice (in the original referendum) and it was based on a false premise. ...We were told it would be the easiest thing in history to get a deal with the EU which didn’t happen.
“Depending on what type of deal Jeremy Corbyn could get would determine whether I do want that deal or whether remain would be the better option. If the country is still of the opinion we should leave I would rather leave with a deal than no deal at all.”
Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said it was time to draw a line under the Government’s failed negotiations and break the deadlock on Europe. She said: “A referendum is the only way to do so. And that is why I agree Jeremy Corbyn was right to say that an incoming Labour government will commit to a referendum.”
She continued: “And ‘remain’ should be on the ballot paper, along with a credible option to leave. We need to ask the public whether they are prepared to leave on the terms on offer or whether they would prefer to remain. And then we need to move onto the wider issues that matter to so many people in our communities and across our country.
Julie Cooper, Labour MP for Burnley said: “The Prime Minister, despite stating he does not want an election, seems to be frantically trying to get one ... Parliament should not be suspended and should be sitting seven days a week to get a deal. In 2017 I was elected on a manifesto promise to deliver a Brexit deal that works for my constituents in Burnley and Padiham and oppose ‘no-deal’. I stand by that promise. I believe that we need an election at the earliest possible opportunity to give the people a real choice on their future.”
Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn said: "Brexit is a complete mess, no-one can decide on what Brexit option they want, it’s embarrassing our country abroad and it's stopping us helping ordinary people here. People just want it to go away now and the sooner its put in the bin and forgotten about the better.
"I don’t get the General Election argument. What happens if a remain alliance wins, how is that democratic and what happens next? Why mix other issues up because that would just lead to more arguing.
"The Labour Party are broadly right but at this moment in time I think Tom Watson has made a very powerful argument. A referendum would end this nonsense. I’m campaigning to get this over with as soon as possible and I’ll also be campaigning that we never have a low-information referendum again."