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Referendum result must be respected says shadow chancellor John McDonnell

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell gestures during a conference about the economy after the EU referendum at the Royal Festival Hall, London PICTURE: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA
David Hughes, Press Association

THE European Union referendum result must be respected, John McDonnell said as he set out Labour's red lines for the negotiations to break with Brussels.

The shadow chancellor rejected the suggestion that MPs could vote to block Brexit, arguing that it would "undermine all confidence in our democratic process".

Mr McDonnell said a "range of options" would have to be considered about future immigration policy as "free movement" would end with Brexit.

He said that the government's austerity measures had been the root cause of many of the problems felt by communities around the country, but they had sought to blame immigration and the EU.

"Let's be absolutely clear on the immigration issue. When Britain leaves the European Union, free movement of labour and people will then come to an end.

"So between now and then, Jeremy Corbyn set out in a speech last week, we need to consult with the British people on the nature then of the relationship we have with regard to the movement of people and workers.

"There will be a range of options which people will then have the opportunity to debate. The problem of a referendum – it's a binary choice. We have to respect the decision of it, but now we have to explore the details of those implications and allow the people of this country to participate in the debate about what sort of relationship we have with the European Union. That includes the issue with regards to immigration itself."

He added that as he campaigned around the country during the EU referendum contest "what we found is those communities that felt left behind blamed immigration to a certain extent, they blamed the European Union, they were looking for a whole range of reasons as to why their communities felt left behind".

"A lot of the reasons actually rested with the austerity policies this government had pursued," he said.

Asked about the idea that MPs could vote against Brexit, Mr McDonnell said: "We have to respect the decision that was made in the referendum... otherwise, to be frank, we undermine all confidence in our democratic process."

Setting out his conditions for Brexit in a speech in London, Mr McDonnell outlined five conditions that a new deal should include.

They included maintaining a seat on the board of the EU's investment bank in order to ensure money continued to flow to the UK, even after Britain had broken away from Brussels.

The Labour plan would also guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK and Britons living on the continent.

Mr McDonnell said: "Our aim must be to ensure freedom of trade for the UK businesses in the EU and freedom of trade for EU businesses in the UK.

"Second: no EU citizen currently living or working in the UK will have their residency rights affected, and no UK citizen currently living or working in the EU will have their rights affected.

"Third: existing protections at work, provided by the EU, must be maintained.

"Fourth: the UK's role in the European Investment Bank should be maintained.

"Fifth: rights of UK financial services and companies to win business across the EU must be maintained.

"Any path through the negotiations that does not respect these guidelines will be liable to have severe consequences for jobs and protections at work."

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