Owen Smith insisted he “stood by his principles” in calling for a second EU referendum, even though it led to his sacking as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.
He told the BBC after his dismissal: “I think it is a mistake, for Jeremy Corbyn in particular, who has always understood the value of people standing by their principles. It is the position that he has often adopted, and it is certainly a value in him that others have extolled. In truth, I think that is all I have done. I have stood by my principles.”
Smith said leaving the EU was “the biggest economic crisis that our country will have faced for many, many generations” and he believed Labour should stand against it.
Referring to the Labour leader’s views on Brexit as “a more Eurosceptic position”, he added: “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.”
Labour peer Peter Hain, another former Northern Ireland Secretary, described the dismissal as a “Stalinist purge”, while Labour MP Chuka Umunna said it was “extraordinary” that Smith had been sacked for advocating a Brexit policy which, he said, had wide support in the party
Smith’s comments on Brexit policy were seemingly a step too far for the party leadership, who’d welcomed him back into the fold after his challenge to Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said although Smith was “a valued colleague”, he could not sit on the opposition front bench while advancing “a position which was simply not Labour Party policy”.
Critics, however, pointed out thatAbbott herself in November told constituents she would push for a referendum on the final Brexit deal before claiming she was talking only of a parliamentary vote.
Smith has been replaced by Rochdale MP and shadow housing minister Tony Lloyd. Jeremy Corbyn said that he was “highly experienced” and “committed to ensuring that peace in Northern Ireland is maintained”.