Lord Adonis calls on Jeremy Corbyn to endorse a second EU referendum on final Brexit deal

Exclusive: Former transport minister says it will become 'increasingly difficult' for the Labour leader to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with Theresa May

Thursday 04 January 2018 18:19
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Lord Adonis on how to stop Brexit, Corbyn’s leadership, and which cabinet ministers should get the boot

Lord Andrew Adonis has urged Jeremy Corbyn to call for a second referendum so the British public can have their say on the final Brexit deal.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, the former Labour Transport Secretary said it would become “increasingly difficult” for Mr Corbyn to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Theresa May on Brexit.

Instead he called on the Labour leader to endorse a second referendum so the electorate could decide whether they want to accept the final trade deal with the European Union or opt to stay in the trade bloc.

“I’m rather hoping that Jeremy Corbyn will move in the direction of a referendum on the final terms, because it is going to become increasingly difficult for him to stand shoulder to shoulder with Theresa May when the living standards of ordinary and hardworking Brits are being trashed,” Lord Adonis told The Independent.

The comments come as Lord Adonis’s former boss, Tony Blair, launched a ferocious attack on Labour’s “confusing” stance on Brexit.

The former Prime Minister described the party’s current position as “mistaken” and warned that voters would not find Mr Corbyn’s approach “credible”.

Highlighting senior figures in the current Labour leader’s top team, including John McDonnell, Mr Blair claimed they had apparently made contradictory remarks on the party’s stance.

He concluded that Labour’s “timidity”, alongside Tory right-wingers, would ultimately be to blame if Britain leaves the EU.

Lord Adonis has also been critical of Mr Corbyn and his stance on Brexit in the past and after the general election in 2017 he called on the Labour leader to step down saying “leaders who lose a first election virtually never win a second”.

He has however now changed tack slightly and claimed that compared to Ms May’s Government Mr Corbyn “looks very good”.

“As the Government gets worse and worse I think the Labour alternative looks stronger and stronger,” Lord Adonis told The Independent.

“Jeremy looks very good next compared to this very unimpressive Government we have at the moment.”

He did however add that Mr Corbyn “was not as wildly pro-European as [he] would like” and that the Labour peer was “hoping to encourage [Corbyn] down that road”.

When asked about his thoughts on the current cabinet, Lord Adonis, who served as a minister for both Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, offered a scathing response in which he said there was “quite a long list” of ministers that he believed were not doing their jobs well.

He argued that “about half” would not be in their position if Britain had not voted to leave the European Union and Ms May should consider sacking them.

“I don’t think there are many people who think that the Foreign Secretary [Boris Johnson] has done a brilliant job in representing the country abroad,” Lord Adonis told The Independent.

“As for the state of our Brexit negotiations and the two ministers who are responsible for those have not been doing very well either. My good friend Chris Grayling hasn’t done a fantastic job as Transport Secretary.

“If you wanted me to give you a list of who is not doing well, it’s quite a long list.”

Lord Adonis spoke to The Independent days after he sensationally resigned as the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.

He said he was forced to step down after the Government “tried to silence” him over his criticism of its handling of the “bailout” of Stagecoach and Virgin, who are running the East Coast rail franchise.

In his resignation letter Lord Adonis delivered an attack on Theresa May claiming she was “allying with Ukip and the Tory hard right”.

He also described Brexit as “a dangerous populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump” and said the EU Withdrawal Bill was the “worst legislation of his lifetime”.

However, Whitehall sources said the Europhile peer had “jumped before he was pushed”, as his increasingly critical interventions on Brexit had left him at odds with the Government and many Eurosceptic MPs.

Lord Adonis was appointed as the chair of the new National Infrastructure Commission when it was set up by then-Chancellor George Osborne in October 2015. He was hired permanently by Ms May in April 2017 and seen by many as someone who could ensure cooperation across party lines.

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