Labour must 'show leadership' on Brexit, says sacked frontbencher Owen Smith

Comments from the Labour MP come less than 24 hours after he was dismissed by Jeremy Corbyn from the Shadow Cabinet

Labour must 'show leadership' on Brexit, says sacked frontbencher Owen Smith

Owen Smith has called on Labour to “show leadership” in opposing the Government’s Brexit plans as he labelled Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to sack him from Labour’s frontbench as a “mistake”.

The comments from the MP for Pontypridd came after he was dismissed by the Labour leader for breaking ranks with the position of the Shadow Cabinet, calling for a fresh referendum on the final Brexit deal and for his party to remain in the single market.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme less than 24 hours after being removed as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr Smith said Mr Corbyn “clearly wants to take a different position to that which I advocate, a more Eurosceptic position if you like, on Brexit”.

Mr Smith, who challenged Mr Corbyn for the Labour leadership in 2016, continued: “My view is that the Labour Party needs to show leadership on this issue, it’s the biggest economic crisis that our country will have faced for many, many generations.”

“It’s the first instance that I can think of in living memory of a government pursuing a policy that they know is going to make our economy smaller and reduce people’s livelihoods and life chances and I cannot understand why we in Labour would support that.”

Asked if he had been on the brink of quitting over Mr Corbyn’s response to the Salisbury nerve agent attack, he said: “I didn’t say that publicly at all.”

But Mr Smith did not endorse Lord Hain’s view that the Labour leader was conducting a “Stalinist purge” in sacking him.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a Stalinist purge, but I think it is a mistake – for Jeremy Corbyn in particular who has always understood the value of people standing by their principles, it’s the position he has often adopted and it is certainly a value in him that others have extolled.”

His comments also came after Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott – a close ally of the Labour leader – defended Mr Corbyn’s decision, adding: “Owen Smith was a valued colleague, he wanted to make a contribution to the debate and he will be able to continue to do so.

“What he can’t do is sit on our front bench and advance a position which is simply not Labour Party policy.”

Owen Smith sacked by Jeremy Corbyn from Labour frontbench after calling for another Brexit referendum

But referring to Ms Abbott’s letter to her constituents last year saying she would “argue for the right of the electorate to vote” on the Brexit deal, Mr Smith added: “It’s interesting to have Diane Abbott defending the decision, she said something very similar a couple of months ago and she hasn’t been sacked.”

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