Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has told constituents in letters this month she would fight “for the right of the electorate” for a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
The comments from one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies are at odds with Labour party policy after the leadership earlier in 2017 definitively ruled a second vote at the end of the two-year Brexit negotiations.
In the letter, sent to the Guardian from Hayley Dove, a Hackney constituent of Ms Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary wrote: “Although the Government won the vote moving the [EU Withdrawal] Bill to the next parliamentary stage, the Labour party will continue to push for the many not the few.”
But, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington continued: “I will argue for the right of the electorate to vote on any deal that is finally agreed.”
“The Labour party is committed to retaining the best deal for all. I want to reassure you I am fully focused on defending the interest of the UK and I agree that there should be parliamentary scrutiny and transparency.”
But after her remarks became public the Shadow Home Secretary said the letters were “poorly worded”, insisting that there is “no important story here”.
“There is no difference at all between my position and official Labour party policy,” she added.
In her response Ms Dove told the Guardian: “I think it’s absurd she has responded in this manner… If she does believe what she says in this better then she should say so publicly and make it really clear.”
Another constituent Lee Kelly, from Stoke Newington, also received a similar letter two weeks’ later. He told The Guardian: “Like a lot of people in the constituency, I’m very concerned about Brexit. I was really surprised to see it.”
Ms Abbott’s Labour colleague Ben Bradshaw shared the comments on social media, adding: “Good for Diane! And she shouldn’t have to apologise for sensible and honest assurances to her constituents.
The Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable also said it was “encouraging” that a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet “should come out for the Liberal Democrat position of giving the public a vote on the final deal”.
“I call on them [Labour] to confirm that they back Diane Abbott’s new position. I also look forward to working with Diane Abbott to give the people the chance to vote for an exit from Brexit.
“If the progressive parties did work together to give the public a say on the final deal, we could, even at this late hour, still stop Brexit.”