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Brexit: Labour should back Remain, says Welsh Government minister

By James Williams
BBC Wales Brexit correspondent

image captionCounsel General Jeremy Miles was addressing journalists on Tuesday

Labour should campaign to remain in the EU if a general election is called before Brexit, according to the Welsh Government's top lawyer.

Jeremy Miles said a Labour victory would then be a mandate to stop the process of leaving the EU without the need for another referendum.

Labour pledged on Tuesday to campaign to Remain, if a poll was held, against no deal or a "damaging Tory Brexit".

The statement did not say what the party would do at a general election.

Labour's shadow cabinet met on Tuesday morning to discuss changing its policy on a further referendum. The party has been under pressure from its membership and senior figures to move to a more pro-EU stance.

The Welsh Labour Government changed its position back in May to fully support a new poll, after it came third in the EU election in Wales.

Trade union leaders have called on Labour to back another referendum under all circumstances. They expect the party to formally back Remain against the option of a Conservative Brexit deal or a no-deal exit from the EU.

However, if Labour wins a general election, it wants a "confirmatory vote" on a new Labour Brexit deal but says the party's stance in that referendum campaign would "depend on the deal negotiated".

Speaking in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday, Counsel General Jeremy Miles would not answer directly the question of whether the trade union position was a "fudge" but said it was "obviously helpful that the position appears to be moving" towards support for a further referendum.

He added: "We have been really clear as a government that Remain should be on the ballot for any referendum and whatever the other options are we will campaign for Remain.

"Obviously, I would hope to see that reflected across the UK but that is our position as a Welsh Labour Government in Wales."

But Mr Miles said another referendum may not be necessary because, in effect, a general election could serve the same purpose.

image copyrightReuters
image captionJeremy Corbyn has been under pressure to change his party's EU policy

The counsel general said: "If it were the case that you had an incoming prime minister seeking a mandate in that general election for a no-deal Brexit, which is a conceivable scenario, in that situation it seems to me that we as a party should be advocating remain in that manifesto rather than a referendum".

"Regarding the election, where there will be a clear set of choices for the people between a no deal and a remain, regarding that, if you like, as the source of the mandate," he said.

Welsh Labour has said it wants to remain, Mr Miles told the news conference.

"A referendum would enable us to campaign for Remain to secure that outcome but in the sort of circumstances... of that kind of general election with those two options, I think the better position is for us to call for remain in the manifesto and to campaign on that basis and that would provide us with that mandate."

He added that whatever kind of deal could be negotiated would not be "as good as remaining in the European Union".

Paul Davies, Welsh Conservative assembly group leader, said: "First we saw Mark Drakeford and his cabinet ignoring the Welsh public by dismissing their voice in the democratic vote, and now we see it's a UK problem.

"Labour across the UK are only seeking to extend a difficult period of uncertainty for the British people, when in fact Parliament should be working together to deliver the will of the Welsh and British people quickly and effectively."

Related Topics

  • Welsh Labour
  • Labour Party
  • Wales Brexit
  • Welsh government

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