British opposition Labour Party leadership contender Owen Smith delivers a speech on the National Health Service at the University of Salford in Salford, north west England, on August 15, 2016. (AFP photo)
UK Labour Party politician Owen Smith says he will block the triggering of formal negotiations to leave the European Union (EU) unless the government holds a second referendum or a general election to approve its final Brexit deal.
In a historic referendum on June 23, some 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the EU after 43 years of membership, while roughly 48 voted to stay in the union.
Britain’s political system and economy have been thrown into chaos by the outcome of the EU referendum, which was not expected by analysts, the markets or even the politicians who campaigned for a British exit, also known as Brexit.
Smith, Labour leadership candidate and Jeremy Cobyn’s challenger, said Wednesday if he is elected, the party will not support triggering Article 50, which sets out how an EU country might voluntarily leave the 28-nation bloc.
“Under my leadership, Labour won't give the Tories a blank check. We will vote in Parliament to block any attempt to invoke Article 50 until (British Prime) Theresa May commits to a second referendum or a general election on whatever EU exit deal emerges at the end of the process. I hope Jeremy will support me in such a move," the former BBC producer said.
Smith added that Brexit supporters lied to the British people who he believes “deserve to have a say on whatever exit deal the Tories strike with the EU.”
He went on to say that the Brexit involves “trashing workers' rights and environmental protections, opening our NHS up to foreign competition, making it harder for us to trade with our neighbors and damaging our economy.”
Smith promised to “fight tooth and nail to keep us in the EU.”
His remarks came as Britain's Labour Party started voting on Monday to decide if Corbyn will remain the leader of the country’s main opposition party.
Despite strong support for Corbyn among party members, he has suffered a series of major blows as senior Labour lawmakers have endorsed Smith instead.
Smith, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, announced his decision to run in the Labour leadership election last month. Smith had resigned earlier this year from Corbyn's shadow cabinet before challenging for the leadership.