Politics Barry Gardiner described one of Labour's Brexit policies as 'b******s'

  • Published:

Labour MPs have called for leader Jeremy Corbyn to sack the shadow trade secretary for undermining the party's Brexit policy.

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(REUTERS/Darren Staples)
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  • Labour shadow minister Barry Gardiner described one of his own party's Brexit policies as "bollocks" during a private question and answer session in Brussels last month.
  • Labour's policy is to oppose a Brexit deal which doesn't replicate the benefits of EU membership.
  • However, Gardiner suggested it was a daft policy during a trip to Brussels last month.
  • He was already under pressure for other remarks he made about Brexit at the same event.
  • The Labour MP said the party should be prepared to vote for a deal it doesn't like and claimed the Irish border issue had been "played up" for economic gain.

LONDON — Labour's Barry Gardiner described a key pillar of his party's Brexit policy as "bollocks" in a private meeting in Brussels last month.

The shadow trade secretary told an event hosted by German political institute Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung that Labour's insistence that it will only support a Brexit deal that maintains the benefits of EU membership isn't realistic.

"Well let's just take one test — the exact same benefits. Bollocks. Always has been bollocks and it remains it," Gardiner said, according to a recording of the event obtained by the BBC.

Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Sir Keir Starmer, has set out six tests which the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May must meet in order to receive Labour's support when it is voted on later this year.

One of the tests is that the deal provides the same benefits as EU membership in terms of trade privileges.

"We know very well that we cannot have the exact same benefits and actually it would have made sense — because it was the Tories that said they were going to secure the exact same benefits — and our position should have been to say they have said they are going to secure the exact same benefits and we are going to hold them to that standard," he added.

The Labour leadership is under pressure to take action against Gardiner, who made a number of contentious remarks at the invite-only event last month.

In the same meeting — which took place during the European Council's March summit — Gardiner said Labour parliamentarians should be prepared to vote for a Brexit deal it doesn't agree with, BI exclusively reported last month.

"Let's look at the consequence of there being no deal. The UK will crash out of the EU," according to a transcript of the event obtained by BI and confirmed by attendees.

"It’s exactly what the far right have been pushing for."

He added: "The European Parliament should consider very carefully before voting against any agreement, even if it’s not the agreement you want."

This week the Guardian and Labour website Red Roar revealed that the shadow minister also described the Good Friday Agreement as a "shibboleth" and said the Irish border issue had been "played up" for economic gain.

"I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border and the need to have the shibboleth of the Good Friday agreement," he said.

"And that is because it is hugely in the Republic of Ireland’s economic interest to make sure that there is no tariff and no external border there."

A Labour MP told BI that leader Jeremy Corbyn should sack Gardiner for the remarks. "Incredible. As if the men with the bullets and bombs give a toss about why there's a hard border. They surely have to sack him," they said.

This is the event where Gardiner spoke:

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(Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung)