'Total car crash' Labour humiliated as Gardiner blunders on Brexit in live TV interview

And he also floundered when asked to explain why Labour’s candidate for the Lewisham East by-election Janet Daby wants to keep Britain under Brussels rule in the single market, against official Labour policy.

Mr Gardiner was repeatedly asked about remarks he made to a private audience in which he said people were playing up the Irish border for political reasons.

Emma Barnett, hosting the programme while Andrew Marr was away being treated for cancer, quoted him as saying: “There are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border, and of course there are very good political reasons.”

She asked the Labour frontbencher: “Do you stand by that remark?”

Mr Gardiner replied: “There are reasons why people would wish to – if you look at the balance of trade and the importance of cross-border trade between the south and the north in Ireland it is extremely difficult to see how the Irish economy would withstand the imposition of cross-border controls.”

Ms Barnett then pressed him, asking: “Do you stand by the remarks that people are playing up the Irish border for political reasons. You’ve said it?

“Which Barry Gardiner is the truth? The one that speaks in private or the one that is on television now?”

Mr Gardiner replied: “Sometimes you have conversations in private, and the reason they are held in private is because you can advance thinking and you can actually then try and, if all you ever do is stick by the given line, you’d never actually advance it because you’d never discuss anything with people – that’s the reason for holding things in private.

“The important thing is that we in the Labour Party have come forward with the proposal – the Conservatives have not – which actually meets the problems of solving the Irish border and that is a new customs union which would minimise disruption on the border, and which would enable our jobs and our economy to be protected in this country because the supply chain across the border into Europe would not constantly be undermining our just in time supply chain.”

The interview was branded a “total car crash” by Carrie Symonds, director of communications for the Conservative Party.

She tweeted: “Total car crash for Barry Gardiner on £Marr. Refusing to answer the questions and now he’s getting very tetchy.”

Brexit minister Steve Baker said: “Are we to believe the views Barry Gardiner expresses in private or the very different ones he offers publicly? Gardiner has repeatedly failed to support Labour’s position on Brexit.

“If Labour’s own top team think Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit policy is rubbish, what confidence are the public meant to have in him?

“Only the Conservatives have a clear plan for Brexit and are working to deliver a successful deal for all parts of the United Kingdom.”

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