Wales politics

Labour 'deserves ridicule' if it offers Leave and Remain at ballot box

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would go into a general election offering both Leave and Remain

Labour will deserve the "ridicule" it will get if it promises to renegotiate Brexit while also offering a new referendum, a senior Welsh Labour politician has said.

Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour will offer a "credible Leave option" as well as a new vote at a general election.

But Health Minister Vaughan Gething said it will make the party unsupportable.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said Mr Corbyn was respecting Leave voters.

Mr Drakeford has previously vowed to back Remain if a new ballot was held.

The Welsh Labour leader has taken a firmer pro-EU stance since European Parliament elections in May where his party came third, behind the Brexit Party and Plaid Cymru.

But Labour's general election manifesto is not expected to back Leave or Remain.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Gething said Jeremy Corbyn's position was "utter BS".

The minister, who wants to see a further referendum on the EU, said: "We can't ask people to vote to renegotiate, [and] then might ask the public to vote that down. We will deserve all the ridicule we get if this is the manifesto."

He told BBC Wales: "It won't reach out to Leave and Remain supporters, it will make us unsupportable for Leave and Remain supporters."

'Respectful'

Defending Mr Corbyn, Mark Drakeford said he would not find the UK Labour position "difficult" to explain to voters.

"What we are trying to do is to respect the views of those people who think that our future will be better off elsewhere, and they will have a credible option on that ballot paper," he said.

"But here in Wales, the Labour Party and the Labour government is clear, remaining in the European Union is the best deal of all, and that's what we will be supporting."

He said Mr Corbyn had to balance the fact that the 50 seats with the biggest vote to leave the EU are held by Labour members. "He has to be respectful of that," he said.

On Wednesday Tom Watson, UK Labour deputy leader, put himself at odds with Mr Corbyn, saying the party must prioritise reversing Brexit through another referendum, over winning power in a general election.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption First Minister Mark Drakeford has overseen a shift in the Welsh Government's Brexit position

Lynne Neagle, Torfaen Labour AM and a supporter of a further referendum, feared Mr Corbyn's Brexit stance risked a majority Conservative government.

"Going into a general election with this fudged position will simply mean we haemorrhage even more votes to parties who are clearly Remain," she told BBC Wales.

"We should have learnt by now that if we stand in the middle of the road we get run over."

But her assembly colleague Mike Hedges stood by the UK leader.

"I represent a constituency that is overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the EU," the Swansea East AM said. "I agree with Jeremy Corbyn we should get the best possible deal and then ask the electorate to choose between that and Remain."

'Solve this mess'

Stephen Kinnock, Aberavon Labour MP, wants a version of Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement agreed, with changes that had been negotiated by Labour before cross-party talks broke down earlier this year.

He was successful in requiring the deal to be brought to a further vote, following the passage of a bill aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

"The way to solve this mess is not through a second referendum or a general election- it's by leaving the European Union with a deal," Mr Kinnock said.

"That has always been my view - that we need to have a compromise which recognises the massive political upheaval that our country has been through and would continue to go through if we have a very divisive second referendum or a general election."

Analysis by BBC Wales political correspondent James Williams

During last year's Welsh Labour leadership contest, Mark Drakeford made a virtue of his support for Jeremy Corbyn - he used the UK Labour leader's slogan of "For the Many, Not the Few" for his own campaign and sang from the same policy hymn sheet.

But when it comes to Brexit, things have changed, 'clear red water' has emerged between Labour in Cardiff and Westminster.

Welsh Labour is now fully supportive of reversing the 2016 EU referendum result, whilst Jeremy Corbyn and his office, despite taking the step to back a second referendum after a general election, have yet to travel the same distance and come out fully for 'Remain'.

After the drubbing in May's European Parliamentary election, Mark Drakeford conceded that Labour's Brexit position was "too complicated" to sell on the doorstep.

With anti and pro-Brexit parties moving to clear, unambiguous in-out positions on either side of the debate, the concern in Labour's ranks is that Jeremy Corbyn's continued attempt to straddle the divide, could still leave many people scratching their heads.

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