Labour is “only interested in frustrating” Brexit and is attempting to delay the UK’s departure from the EU, the Conservatives have claimed.
A day after shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry suggested Labour would likely vote against any Brexit deal Theresa May secures with Brussels, London mayor Sadiq Khan proposed a new referendum with the option to remain in the EU.
The call was described as “interesting and troubling” by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, while Conservative Party chair Brandon Lewis has demanded that Labour “rule out trying to delay Brexit”.
He added: “Across the country, Labour politicians are calling for a referendum rerun that would take us all back to square one.
“While Labour are only interested in frustrating the process, the Conservatives have a plan for a deal which will deliver on the result of the referendum by taking back control of our laws, borders and money.”
Mr Lewis also claimed that Labour “want to keep the UK in the EU beyond March 2019 – almost three years after the country voted to leave”.
Mr Khan broke his silence about the possibility of a second vote on Saturday, ramping up pressure on the Labour leadership.
He said the referendum should offer voters the choice of staying in the EU against any deal the government manages to strike – or against a “no-deal” Brexit if an agreement cannot not reached.
But it was swiftly rejected by senior Labour frontbencher Barry Gardiner.
The shadow international trade secretary told Sky News that holding another referendum “would be to throw this government a lifeline”.
He added that if the government could not get its Brexit deal through parliament, a general election should be held instead.
First Minister of Wales Carywn Jones also admitted to Sky News there “might be a time” when he would call for a national vote on the EU exit plan – if a general election is called and it produces another hung parliament.
The idea has been categorically ruled out by Downing Street, with Theresa May calling it a “great betrayal” of democracy.
Jeremy Corbyn has also said it is not something Labour is “calling for” at the moment, and that the “ship has sailed” on remaining in the EU.
But calls have been mounting over the last few months from both Labour and Conservative backbenchers.