UK Politics

Brexit: Ed Miliband rejects calls for second referendum

Ed Miliband Image copyright House of Commons
Image caption Mr Miliband says MPs should vote on Article 50 but not seek to block it

Ed Miliband has rejected calls for another referendum on Britain's EU membership.

The former Labour leader told ITV's Peston on Sunday June's Leave vote must be respected and there was "no question" of the UK staying put.

Some Labour and Lib Dem MPs have said they will oppose starting formal Brexit talks unless ministers promise a subsequent vote on the eventual deal.

Mr Miliband also called for curbs on freedom of movement rules in the UK.

The government is appealing against a High Court ruling which stated that it must seek the consent of Parliament before it triggers Article 50 - the mechanism by which member states leave the EU.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party will not seek to "frustrate" the Article 50 process but several of his MPs have said they will oppose it if a vote is held in the House of Commons early next year.

While supporting calls for a parliamentary vote on Article 50, Mr Miliband said he did not agree with MPs threatening to withhold their support unless certain conditions were met.

Despite sympathising with the 48% of Remain voters who felt "angry and frustrated" by the outcome, he said the result could not be overturned.

"We had a referendum and we've got to respect the result. We are leaving the EU."

Mr Miliband said his focus was on getting the government to reveal more details about its plans and that a parliamentary vote was the best way to do that.

'Hard Brexit'

But he suggested a vote against Article 50 could make the prospect of a "hard Brexit" - a phrase which assumes the UK will leave the single market as well as the EU - more likely.

"If we cede the field and we say 'we're the people who want to reverse the result', then there are two choices in Britain: hard, destructive Brexit, or reversing the result. I know what's going to win - hard Brexit's going to win."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Both Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband campaigned for Remain during the EU referendum

Asked if he agreed with the UKIP leader Nigel Farage that anything other than "hard Brexit" - the UK exiting the European single market as well as the EU - would be "a betrayal", Mr Miliband said: "Nigel Farage might be our liaison with Donald Trump, but he doesn't get to decide UK government policy as far as I know."

He continued: "The reality is there are lots of different modes for Britain outside the EU. There's Norway, there's Switzerland, there's Turkey in the customs union outside the single market."

Freedom of movement

Mr Miliband's comments bring him into conflict with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who has demanded a second referendum on the terms of the final settlement agreed, describing this as a "red line" for his party's MPs and peers.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Corbyn said Labour would hold the government to account during parliamentary debates on Article 50 but not stand in the way of invoking it.

"We will respect the referendum," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show. "Therefore, there is going to be a departure from the European Union.

"We will demand that we have market access, workers' protection, consumer protection, environmental protection, justice issues through the European Court."

In the ITV interview, Mr Miliband also said the current unrestricted right of EU citizens to live and work in the UK would have to come to an end - a stance that potentially puts him at odds with his successor Jeremy Corbyn.

"If you are asking me should we carry on with free movement as was, I don't think we should. I do think in the Brexit negotiations we have got to look for change in terms of free movement.

"One of the things from the referendum is that free movement cannot carry on exactly as it did before."

The government has said it wants controls on freedom of movement, something EU leaders have said would be incompatible with continued membership of the single market.

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