Labour’s Brexit split deepens with Tom Watson defying official party line

Labour’s split over Brexit deepened after senior party figures rejected calls for a new vote before an election.

In a major speech, deputy leader Tom Watson had contradicted the party’s official line to push for a national poll first.

But Unite leader Len McCluskey, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn , struck back at Mr Watson.

“It’s sad. Now and again, Tom pops up from where he has been hiding… normally to try and undermine his leader,” he said.

It comes two months after the union chief launched a blistering attack on the Labour number two at the Durham Miners’ Gala, telling him he should be “f***king-well ashamed” of himself.

Mr Watson had told the Creative Industries Federation: “We need to solve Brexit first, once and for all, by a referendum and then have a general election” before adding that Labour should campaign for Remain “unambiguously and unequivocally.”

He argued that the mandate of the 2016 referendum was no longer valid and that, knowing what they do now, the public should be given another chance to have their say.

The party has been split over its Brexit stance with many Labour MPs and the membership, the majority of whom support Remain, pushing for a fresh vote. The leadership, however, fears heavy losses in Leave-voting Labour seats.

Shadow Justice secretary Richard Burgon, a Corbyn loyalist, fought back against the call for a second referendum, tweeting “first, we need a General Election to kick out the Tories!”

It sets the stage for a tense showdown at Labour party conference in just ten days away where the party’s Brexit policy will come under scrutiny.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer sought a conciliatory tone in his speech at the TUC conference.

Acknowledging Brexit divisions in the party, he added: “We are very united having that discussion; we don’t have to shut down discussion in our party.”

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