THE divisions at the top of the Labour movement rose up again after Keir Starmer in an unscripted line in his keynote speech at the party conference in Liverpool told delegates “nobody is ruling out Remain as an option” in any second EU vote.

Yesterday, the party’s rift over a so-called People’s Vote was laid bare after John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, insisted that Remain would not be part of any question put to voters in any second referendum. Later, Sir Keir insisted it would be.

And in his keynote speech the Shadow Brexit Secretary again claimed the possibility of Britain retaining its membership of the EU in future public not only had to remain an option in another referendum but no-one, including Mr McDonnell, was ruling it out.

However, during an at times passionate debate on Brexit, Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the union, told delegates that if the Tories were not brave enough to call a general election, then Labour would “demand they go back to the people with a vote on the deal”.

He went on: “That is not in a second referendum, despite what Keir Starmer may have said earlier, it will be a public vote, that’s a vote on the terms of our departure.”

Len McCluskey, the union’s leader, has made clear that he believes the 2016 Brexit vote should stand and there should not be a rerun to keep Britain in the EU. He too wants to see a general election to get rid of Theresa May’s Conservative Government.

In his conference address, Sir Keir made clear the party was set to vote against the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan when it was put to a Commons vote and that a general election should be triggered if she were unable to win Westminster’s approval.

As he went through the key passage, delegates regularly applauded various sections and at one point around two-thirds of delegates rose to their feet.

The Shadow Secretary of State argued that if Labour could not secure a general election, then "we must have other options; that must include campaigning for a public vote".

He went on: "It is right that Parliament has the first say but, if we need to break the impasse, our options must include campaigning for a public vote and nobody is ruling out Remain as an option."

Sir Keir's comments departed from the text of his speech and was at odds with Mr McDonnell’s view.

But, earlier, the Shadow Brexit Secretary sought to play down the split, claiming it did not exist and that the Shadow Chancellor’s initial assessment could be put down to having been "up early" for his interviews on Monday, just hours after Labour's policy motion was thrashed out in Sunday night's marathon meeting.

Explaining Labour's strategy for the looming Commons showdown on whatever deal Mrs May brought back from Brussels, Sir Keir said there was "division, chaos, failure" under her premiership and "the Government has no credible plan for Brexit, weeks out from the deadline".

He told conference: "The Tory civil war on Europe that has been going on for years now risks our prosperity.”

"The party that once promised that it would fix the roof while the sun was shining is now intent on burning the whole house down,” declared Sir Keir.

"So, I've got a message for the Prime Minister: if your party wants to tear itself apart, that's fine… but you're not taking our country with you."

He noted that it was "increasingly likely" that whatever plan Mrs May brought back to the Commons would fail to meet Labour's tests for a Brexit agreement and if so "we would vote against her deal".

Labour would also vote down a "vague" deal, a so-called "blind Brexit" that did not spell out details of the future relationship.

"This is not about frustrating the process; it is about stopping a destructive Tory Brexit," insisted Sir Keir.

He refused to accept that the only option available if Mrs May's plan were voted down was a no-deal Brexit.

"No deal would be a catastrophe and no government has the right to plunge our country into chaos because of their own failures," declared the Labour frontbencher.

Under the terms of the motion set to be voted on late this afternoon, if Labour could not force an early general election, it would "support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote".

The possibility of another referendum after 17.4 million voted to leave the EU has led to fears of civil unrest and the rise of far-right politics.

But Sir Keir said that that could be avoided and the party had a responsibility to save the UK from leaving without a deal.

Ahead of his speech, he told BBC Radio 5 Live a no-deal Brexit would "rupture our trading arrangements and this will cost jobs, I don't doubt that the pound will begin to drop".

The Shadow Brexit Secretary explained: "We won't have any arrangements for security and counter-terrorism - I worked, when I was director of public prosecutions, on counter-terrorism work across Europe - the idea that we wouldn't have an arrangement in place for that would horrify people," he said.

"And, frankly, this idea that we might have medicines stockpiled for six weeks has spooked people.

"We don't want to face that situation and we have got a duty to do something to stop it and that's why the option of a public vote is important as something that may have to happen when we get to that stage."

Acknowledging the sensitivity of the issue, Sir Keir said: "We have to manage it in a sensible way but we have to accept we are only having this discussion because of the failure of the talks."

Labour's position leaves the PM brutally exposed to a rebellion by restive Tory backbenchers, with fewer than a dozen able to fracture her fragile control of the Commons in the upcoming vote.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary confirmed talks were taking place with potential rebels, telling the BBC: "If we get to that stage this autumn, most MPs would be prepared to say: 'We need to do something to prevent us crashing out of the EU without a deal.’"

In response to his conference speech, Eloise Todd for the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: "Keir Starmer's speech has put staying in the EU firmly on the table.

“After an unprecedented grassroots effort mainly from Corbyn’s supporters, Labour look set to back a public vote should an election not happen. The delegates should listen to the standing ovation that accompanied Keir’s words and confirm the motion this afternoon.”

Gerard Batten, the UKip leader, said: “Keir Starmer is another member of the Remainer elite who thinks he knows better than the people. I will remind him that five million Labour voters also voted for Brexit.

"Labour, Liberal or Tory, it's clear that if people want Brexit, then they will have to vote for UKIP at the next General Election."

Stephen Gethins for the SNP said: “It’s time for Labour to stop playing games and finally nail its colours to the mast with a genuine alternative to a Tory extreme Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn’s shameless ‘man without a plan’ political posturing is simply not good enough. It is a total absence of leadership on the biggest issue facing the country and it shows Labour is not fit for opposition let alone government.”

The party’s Europe spokesman went on: “Unbelievably, Labour still appear to back the harmful fundamentals of a Tory hard Brexit; dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will and causing huge damage to jobs and the economy by taking the whole of the UK out of the single market and customs union, which is around eight times bigger than the UK market alone.”

The Fife MP added: “With just six months to go before the UK crashes out of the EU, it is staggering that Labour have failed to outline a clear alternative to the Tories and continue to pursue a reckless path that they know will destroy jobs, damage businesses, and inflict lasting harm on the incomes and living standards of millions of people…

“It is time Labour ditched their support for a Tory hard Brexit and joined the SNP in standing up for the interests of the country.”

Brandon Lewis, the Conservative Chairman, said: “Keir Starmer has confirmed Labour would break their promises and take us back to square one on Brexit.

“In the space of one morning, he has refused to rule out delaying Brexit, refused to confirm Labour would end freedom of movement, and opened the door to staying in the EU with a second referendum. Labour’s promises on Brexit aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

“Labour can’t deliver the change the British people voted for and it’s only the Conservatives who have a plan to take back control of our laws, borders and money,” he added.