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Labour ‘must move now’ on switching Brexit position, says John McDonnell | Politics News



John McDonnell has told Sky News that Labour needs to “move now” on shifting its Brexit stance, as union boss Len McCluskey insisted there was “no panic”.

The shadow chancellor, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, admitted on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that he was “a little bit” frustrated at the continuing stalemate on the issue, and said the delay was coming from the unions.

In the wake of Labour’s dismal showing in last month’s European elections, a number of Labour’s frontbench – including deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer – have publicly called for the party to come out in favour of another public vote and to back staying in the EU.

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has signalled his opposition to shifting position

At a recent shadow cabinet meeting, Mr McDonnell reportedly compared the party’s current policy on Brexit to a “slow-motion car crash”.

While refusing to comment on this, Mr McDonnell told Ridge: “What I’ve been saying is we need to move now, and Jeremy said a month ago ‘yes, we’re going to put this issue back to the people’ – he fully agreed.

“We have all agreed we have to go back to the people… almost certainly in another referendum.

“The discussion then is about what attitude should Labour take. I have said publicly I would vote Remain, I’d campaign for Remain.”

Mr McDonnell added: “(Jeremy) had a meeting on the Monday before the last shadow cabinet and I thought the next day we were going to move forward.

“The unions asked for a bit more time and I don’t mind that – that’s the type of leader Jeremy is, he is a consensus builder.”

But Mr McCluskey, the head of the Unite union, showed no sign of dropping his opposition to changing position.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show there was “a panic” before blaming a “well-funded Remain lobby” for creating a “toxic situation”.

Mr McCluskey said: “There seems to be a panic to rush in order to establish a different position from one the Labour Party has had for a couple of years now, which is respecting the result of the 2016 referendum and trying to negotiate a deal which would unite the nation.

“Unfortunately, we have had a prime minister who has made huge mistakes and a government which has been incapable of delivering Brexit.

“And we have had a well-funded Remain lobby that has turned the nation into a toxic situation.”

Three minutes with Boris Johnson

Meanwhile, in an interview with Ridge, Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson has said he would suspend the UK’s £39bn divorce bill to Brussels in “creative ambiguity” until a deal was reached.

Mr Johnson was also dismissive of the insistence by EU leaders that there would be no reopening of talks on the withdrawal agreement.

He said: “I think it’s possibly the case that they would say that at this particular stage in the negotiations. You would expect them to say that kind of thing.

“We are going to work very hard to show our earnestness, our sincerity. What we want to do is take the elements of the current withdrawal agreement, which really doesn’t work at all, it’s a defunct agreement. But there are some good bits, like the bit about citizens. We should pass that through.

“The money, the £39bn, I would suspend that in creative ambiguity wait until we get a deal and then solve the problems of the Northern Irish border.”

In his own leadership pitch interview, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested he would be prepared to pursue a no-deal Brexit “with a heavy heart” despite the risks to business and said some of his spending pledges would be delayed as a result – although he would push on with a cut to corporation tax.

Mr Hunt sought to maintain a tough-sounding approach to Brexit, including a warning he could refuse to pay part of Britain’s £39bn exit bill to the EU if negotiations fail, while repeating that he believes he can secure a deal.

:: Watch The Battle for Number 10: Jeremy Hunt on Sky News tomorrow at 7pm. Also watch the Liberal Democrats leadership debate between Ed Davey and Jo Swinson at 10am.

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