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Labour: We're not ruling out Remain as an option

By Greg Heffer and Alan McGuinness, political reporters, in Liverpool
Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has insisted "nobody is ruling out Remain as an option" in a fresh referendum on the UK's relationship with the EU.
In a bid to push past confusion on Labour's position should there be a second public vote, Sir Keir declared the party could still back voters having the choice of staying in the EU.In his speech to Labour's conference in Liverpool, Sir Keir said if Theresa May could not reach a Brexit deal with the EU, or parliament votes against an agreement, then Labour "must step up again and shape the debate".He said: "Our preference is clear, we want a general election to sweep away this failed government."And, deviating from a draft version of his speech, Sir Keir added: "But, if that's not possible, we must have other options. That must include campaigning for a public vote."It's right that parliament has the first say, but if we need to break the impasse our options must include campaigning for a public vote and nobody is ruling out Remain as an option."Sir Keir's declaration brought a standing ovation from many delegates in the conference hall and the biggest cheer of his entire speech.

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However, veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who backed Leave, notably did not applaud while a top union leader immediately contradicted Sir Keir's message.Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry also later failed to explicitly back Sir Keir's stance.The Conservatives seized on Sir Keir's conference address.Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said: "The Labour Party promised to voters in their manifesto to respect the referendum."But they are now tearing up that pledge, failing to deliver on the instruction of the British people. They would take us all back to square one."Their decision to vote down any deal in parliament - no matter what the terms - is unprincipled and shows that the Labour Party is putting political calculation above the national interest."Sir Keir also faced accusations of a "betrayal" of Labour voters by the party's Brexiteers, as well as claims he used his speech to position himself as a potential replacement for Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour: We're not ruling out Remain as an option

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Brendan Chilton, the general secretary of Labour Leave, said: "Keir's speech today was a challenge to Jeremy's leadership."It was a carefully calculated pitch, no doubt written with a team of advisers. He is undermining Jeremy, John McDonnell and millions of Labour voters - and he knows it."At times the speech had more in common with a leadership stump speech than a policy announcement."Many people will wonder whether Sir Keir is trying to line himself up as the Remain replacement for Jeremy."Later on Tuesday, Labour members backed a motion committing the party to keeping "all options remaining on the table" - including a second referendum - should parliament vote against the prime minister's Brexit deal and a general election not follow.
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