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Labour frontbencher called Labour’s own Brexit policy “b*ll*cks”

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Labour frontbencher and Corbyn loyalist Barry Gardiner has come under fire for a second time today after a recording surfaced of him describing the party's Brexit policy as "bollocks".

Gardiner was speaking about the "six tests" Labour set by shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer to decide whether to support the final Brexit deal in a Commons vote during of a questions session at a think-tank.

According to the BBC he said: "Well let's just take one test – the exact same benefits. Bollocks. Always has been bollocks and it remains it.

"We know very well that we cannot have the exact same benefits and actually it would have made sense – because it was the Tories that said they were going to secure the exact same benefits – and our position should have been to say they have said they are going to secure the exact same benefits and we are going to hold them to that standard."

Earlier in the day Gardiner was attacked by members of his own party for suggesting the Good Friday Agreement is being used to play up concerns over Brexit.

The shadow international trade secretary described the peace deal, which celebrates its 20th anniversary today, as a “shibboleth”, claiming that a return to a hard Irish border would not lead to a return of violence.

According to the recording of a speech he gave last month, Gardiner said: "We must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border and the need to have the shibboleth of the Good Friday agreement. And that is because it is hugely in the Republic of Irelands economic interest to make sure that there is no tariff and no external border there."

He claimed that people were confusing cause and effect when it came to the reduction of violence in the wake of the deal, arguing that "the watchtowers and the security paraphernalia and the soldiers standing there with guns were a target for paramilitary activity".

Gardiner added: "It doesnt mean that a normal border will bring back paramilitary activity."

Gardiner attacked claims previously linking him with using the word, pointing to a different transcript of the same speech in which the word does not appear. He has since defended his use of the word, insisting it didn't mean the agreement was "outdated or unimportant".

But his comments have been attacked by former shadow Northern Ireland minister Owen Smith, who said they were "reckless and plain wrong".

He added: "On the Good Friday Agreements 20th anniversary, Labour should be defending and sustaining it, not joining the Tory Brexiteers in downplaying its importance and the risks of a hard border."

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, under whom the deal was brokered, said: “I dont know how anyone can say that, its the only basis by which we can have peace.”

Several Labour MPs reaffirmed the party's commitment to the deal.

Jenny Chapman MP said: "The Good Friday Agreement was a miracle and remains a work in progress. Labour will always stand by the promises made as joint custodians of the agreement. Today we should remember those killed and injured over 30 years and reaffirm solemn commitments made."

Conor McGinn MP added: "A Labour government helped achieve this. It changed my life. 20 years ago I was a teenager growing up in south Armagh. Today I am the Labour MP for St Helens North. The Good Friday Agreement is as important now as it was in 1998. We must & we will protect & support it."

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