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John McDonnell tells ITV News PM must 'move over' and call election as he resists pressure for second Brexit referendum

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has told ITV News the government should "move over" and let Labour lead Brexit negotiations - as he played up the need for an election over a second referendum.

"The government clearly can't negotiate a deal. They should just move over and let us get on with it," he told ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand upon arrival at the Labour conference in Liverpool.

Asked about demands for a second referendum, Mr McDonnell said he would not be pushing it amid an expected clamour at conference but wanted to keep the "option of a people's vote on the table".

He instead urged Theresa May to call a general election after the prime minister declared an "impasse" in Brexit negotiations with Brussels.

"In a general election you have a wider debate, but also you choose the team," Mr McDonnell said. "We need a Labour team negotiating."

Labour promised to “put equality centre stage” at its Women’s Conference, taking place on Saturday a day ahead of the main gathering in Liverpool.

Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler unveiled plans to establish a stand-alone department for women and equalities with a minister at the Cabinet table in a future Labour government.

But the main conference is expected to be dominated by squabbles over Brexit and the future of the party.

The shadow chancellor's comments to ITV News came after he suggested the rail industry could be renationalised within five years under a Labour government.

John McDonnell said Labour are ready to take on Brexit negotiations. Credit: PA

More than 100 constituency parties and trade union branches have submitted bids for the referendum issue to be put to a vote in Liverpool.

And MPs and senior trade unionists are set to join a People’s Vote march in the city on Sunday.

Jeremy Corbyn faces pressure to back the People’s Vote campaign Credit: John Stillwell/PA

So far Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has resisted such calls, preferring to press for a general election if – as many MPs expect – Theresa May is unable to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.

Mr Corbyn hopes to use the conference, held under the slogan “Rebuilding Britain, for the many, not the few”, to put behind him a difficult summer dominated by a bitter row over anti-Semitism.

But while the leadership aims to shift the focus on to expected high-profile policy announcements on issues like housing and business, Brexit and party infighting are likely to make the headlines.

Jeremy Corbyn will face pressure in Liverpool to commit Labour to a second Brexit referendum Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will meet on Saturday to discuss changes to leadership election rules, which left-wing activists claim could keep supporters of Mr Corbyn off the ballot.

At the same time, the activist group Momentum which helped propel Mr Corbyn to the leadership is pushing for another rule change which could make it easier to de-select sitting MPs.

It is likely to revive fears among critics of Mr Corbyn of a left-wing purge of the moderates – including some of his fiercest critics in the row over anti-Semitism.

Dawn Butler has emerged as one of Labour's leading voices. Credit: PA

At the Labour Women’s Conference, Ms Butler said equality should no longer be considered an “afterthought”.

She said: “So far we have seen seven different ministers for equality tagged on to four different departments and a budget that’s nearly been halved.

“This proves the Tories are not taking equalities seriously. By establishing a Department for Women and Equalities, Labour will ensure equalities is the common thread running through its government.

“The next Labour government will put equality centre stage.”

She also announced plans to introduce a requirement for all employers to have a domestic abuse policy and provide 10 days’ paid leave for victims, if Labour win power.

“Employers have a duty of care to employees experiencing domestic abuse and should put in place a range of workplace policies to help victims,” Ms Butler said.

“This crucial time will allow women to leave their abusive partners safely, get the help, protection and support they need, knowing their livelihood is secure.

“These 10 days could literally help save the lives of those women.”

And Ms Butler called for a “localised” approach to tackling domestic abuse, with a “national oversight mechanism to set quality standards for refuge provision and support”.