British Labour MP sacked from 'shadow cabinet' role after call for second EU referendum

Owen Smith said a "disorderly and ill-thought-out Brexit" could do enormous damage to Ireland

British Labour MP sacked from 'shadow cabinet' role after call for second EU referendum

Owen Smith. Picture by: Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

A frontbench Labour MP in the UK has been sacked from his 'shadow cabinet' position after calling for a second EU referendum.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith - who unsuccessfully challenged Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of the party in 2016 - was asked to step aside after writing an article calling for a fresh Brexit vote.

In The Guardian article published this morning, he argued: "The damage a disorderly and ill-thought-out Brexit could do in Ireland is enormous.

"We are often told Brexit threatens to 'reimpose' a so-called hard border on the island of Ireland, but that understates the problem. Because the economic border that a hard Brexit would impose on Ireland would be the hardest ever."

Saying his party needed to do more than just backing a soft Brexit, Mr Smith argued: "We have the right to keep asking if Brexit remains the right choice for the country. And to ask, too, that the country has a vote on whether to accept the terms, and true costs of that choice, once they are clear." 

This evening, the politician took to Twitter to say he had been sacked:

In a statement quoted by British media, the Labour Party said: "Owen Smith MP has been asked to stand down as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, and has been replaced by Tony Lloyd with immediate effect."

Mr Corbyn said: "Tony is a highly experienced former Government Minister who is committed to ensuring that peace in Northern Ireland is maintained and helping to steer the devolution deal back on track."

Responding to the news, former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain tweeted: "This is a terrible Stalinist purge - [Owen Smith] has been doing a terrific job on Northern Ireland.

"He's ideal for the role with his experience expertise and considerable ability Widely respected. In a Shadow Cabinet with few big hitters he was definitely one."

Last month, Jeremy Corbyn confirmed his party's support for a new customs union with the EU after Brexit. However, he has ruled out a second referendum.

With the Conservatives having only a minority government in the British parliament, it remains unclear whether a final Brexit deal can pass through parliament without support from Labour and smaller parties.