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Shropshire Star comment: Anti-Brexit stance is a risk for Tom

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

There is a subtle difference between Tom Watson's repeated calls for a second Brexit referendum and his latest intervention on the issue.

Tom Watson

For months Labour's deputy leader has insisted that the only way to break the deadlock over our long delayed EU departure is to gave the public a vote on whatever deal Parliament agrees.

While this can be viewed as an indirect way to stop Brexit – the suggestion being that if the public doesn't back the deal, there will be no Brexit – it is markedly different from Mr Watson's explicit plea for Labour to become a pro-Remain party.

His choice of phrase in his latest speech, calling on his “argue strongly to remain in Europe” and saying Labour's “hearts are Remain”, leaves nothing to the imagination.

It does, however, highlight the seemingly hopeless position that the Labour Party currently finds itself in over Britain's relationship with the EU.

Mr Watson's stance has undoubtedly been influenced by two key events that have seriously damaged his party this year.

Seeing Labour MPs – including some of his close allies – quit the party in February had a profound effect on him, as did the awful showing in the European elections.

He believes that the only way to bring his party together is to actively try to block Brexit – a position that, let us not forget, is supported by the vast majority of Labour MPs.

It is not, of course a position that is backed by some of Mr Watson's colleagues on Labour's frontbench, not least Jeremy Corbyn, who has now been put firmly on the spot.

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Of more concern to Mr Watson, however, should be the reaction from the Labour voters who backed Leave in the referendum.

These are not generally people who will turn up on protest marches waving placards around. These are the silent millions who have sat back and watched their party tear itself apart over Brexit.

There is nothing to suggest that Labour Leave voters have changed their minds. On the contrary, it is more likely that their resolve has been strengthened.

By effectively sidelining their views, Mr Watson has taken a major risk – one that could come back to haunt Labour at a general election.

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