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Keir Starmer says 'public vote has to be an option' for Labour

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has said a public vote "has to be an option" days after the Labour leadership said a second referendum was "not the default" course of action.

Following a tumultuous week in Parliament, which saw Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement defeated by a record majority, Sir Keir said the Prime Minister had been "reckless" in her approach to the Brexit process.

In a speech to the Fabian Society new year conference in London on Saturday, Sir Keir said Labour stood by the commitment made at the party conference last year in Liverpool, that if it was unable to force a general election all options must remain on the table - including another referendum.

Sir Keir again made clear that he believed that in the event of a second referendum, the option of remaining in the EU must be on the ballot paper. "I don't think it is any secret I firmly believe there should be a Remain option - and there has to be a genuine Leave option," he said.

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He said: "If we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options available on the able, including campaigning for a public vote. That was our commitment."

"That is a very important commitment. It's a commitment to you, our members and our movement. And it is one we will keep.

"As I set out in Liverpool, a public vote has to be an option for Labour, after all, deeply embedded in our values are internationalism, collaboration and cooperation with our European partners." he continued.

Sir Keir stressed that “there are no easy routes out of this mess" accusing those who say otherwise of "not being honest".

“Difficult decisions are going to have to be made but now is the time for an honest debate and for credible solutions to emerge,” he said.

The MP for Holborn and St Pancras said it seemed "inevitable" that the government will have to apply for an extension of Article 50.

Sir Keir Starmer told ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand that he didn't "know when the crunch moment will come” but hinted that Labour would campaign for a second referendum if and when the Prime Minister fails to reach a consensus on a new deal on January 29th.

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He told ITV News: "If the Prime Minister goes through this exercise and then in a week or two because she hasn't been flexible on the red lines, comes back and re-presents her deal, that's just been rejected, I think the frustration in Parliament will be profound.

"I think that will provoke Parliament to a point where attempts are made to actually decide for ourselves what the options are.

"We're going to have to watch this space very carefully. I don't know when the crunch moment comes. I do know it's only 69 days to the 29 March."

Tom Watson backed a second referendum to break the impasse in Parliament. Credit: PA

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson also pointed the way to a second referendum as the only way to break the deadlock in Parliament.

During a question and answer session Mr Watson said that while Labour had to respect the result of the 2016 referendum, it was not offering a "blank cheque".

He also said Labour was "obligated" to talk to Mrs May about Brexit if she is offering to do so, despite Jeremy Corbyn refusing to do so unless the Prime MInister rules out a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Watson said: "We are obligated I think through our sense of patriotism and respect for democracy to have an intelligent conversation on Brexit with Theresa May if she is offering it. But there is no bargain basement Brexit on our agenda."