McDonnell Says Labour Not Ruling Out Second Brexit Referendum

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. opposition Labour Party hasn’t ruled out giving its support to a second Brexit referendum, its Treasury spokesman John McDonnell said, adding that he’d prefer a general election.

Under leader Jeremy Corbyn, the party is trying to keep both opponents and supporters of leaving the European Union on board. McDonnell described the party’s position on Brexit as “walking a tightrope.”

Last month, the party’s Northern Ireland spokesman, Owen Smith, was fired for calling for a second referendum on leaving the bloc, in what looked like a signal that this wasn’t an acceptable position in the party. But McDonnell insisted it was still an option, if a remote one.

“We’re not opposed to any form of democratic engagement,” he said in an interview. “We’ve not ruled anything out.”

Still, in a comment that suggests that the Labour leadership is more focused on winning power than it is on stopping Brexit, McDonnell said: “My preference is not another referendum, but a general election.”

McDonnell also said his party would be willing to set aside voter demands for an immigration clampdown in order to secure a Brexit deal that keeps financial services companies in London.

A Labour government would show “flexibility” on the issue of freedom of movement and would see that as the price of maintaining good access to the EU’s single market, he said.

The EU says there can be no single market access without free movement, and the U.K. government has said taking back control of immigration is a red line in the negotiations.

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