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Emily Thornberry can 'see the sense' in having Brexit referendum ahead of election

PUBLISHED: 16:04 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:15 11 October 2019

Emily Thornberry and Jeremy Corbyn, pictured in Parliament, both praised the police response in Westminster this afternoon. Picture: PA

Emily Thornberry and Jeremy Corbyn, pictured in Parliament, both praised the police response in Westminster this afternoon. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Emily Thornberry says the Brexit saga is a "total mess" and she can "see the argument" for having a referendum ahead of an election.

The shadow foreign secretary qualified her remarks by stating it might not be "practical" to have a referendum first, and conceded there are "lots of problems associated" with a second vote on Britain's European Union membership.

But the Islington South and Finsbury MP doubled down on claims she made yesterday that an election could become single issue vote based on Brexit.

Speaking ahead of an event for national hate crime awareness week event at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, Ms Thornberry told the Gazette: "It's a complete and total mess. I don't think people voted for this - they didn't vote for chaos.

"I think we need another referendum and I think people need to vote on something real. So when there's a valid deal versus remain I think we should put it back to the people, and I think people will vote remain."

Labour Party policy, agreed in a divided conference hall in Brighton last month, is to fight an election before backing a second vote on whether Britain should exit the European Union.

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If elected, Jeremy Corbyn and his team will seek to negotiate their own deal with the EU, and offer voters a choice between that and remaining a member state.

Asked if a referendum should take precedence, Ms Thornberry said: "That's the question of the day, and who knows. I can see the argument for having a referendum first because I'm worried we will end up in a general election which will just be a referendum when it ought to be about so much more."

She said the election should be about ending people using food banks, a lack of funding for schools, and inadequate investment in infrastructure.

But she added: "I think it could be just about one issue. I think the last time it [an election] was about one issue was the Boer War.

"But [an election] should be how we can make our country better in an whole range of ways.

"That's why I can see sense in trying to have a referendum first but it's really just a question of, is it practical? There are all kinds of problems associated with that, so just see what happens."

Shadow chancellor exchequer John McDonnell this week told GQ that he and Mr Corbyn could step down if Labour loses the next election, and that a woman should be the next Labour leader.

"I just heard that," Ms Thornberry said. Asked if she was interested in the gig, Ms Thornberry laughed and said: "There is no vacancy. I want to be foreign secretary."

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