Sharon Hodgson told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast the party should “stop being scared of poking the tiger” and alienating Brexit supporters.
She said voters in her Washington and Sunderland West constituency, one of Labour’s intact red wall seats, were now “more willing to recognise that there is some short term pain”.
She spoke after Rachel Reeves used her debut speech as shadow chancellor to point out the downsides of Boris Johnson’s Brexit, an issue that Labour has shied away from since the party’s drubbing partly at the hands of Leave voters in the 2019 election.
Hodgson, who is Starmer’s new parliamentary private secretary (PPS) following the resignation of Carolyn Harris, said Reeves was right to point out “teething problems”.
She told Commons People: “We’ve got to stop being scared of poking the tiger, we’ve got to stop being scared that this will upset people to actually point out that his Brexit had holes in it, we’re not getting the best Brexit we could have got.
“The fishermen must be thinking ‘what the hell is going on, this is not what we were promised’.
“[And] the farmers.
“And it isn’t wrong, we’re not trying to unpick the whole thing by saying actually this could be improved.
“Look at the situation with Ireland and the border down the middle of the Irish sea that everyone said nobody wanted and cost Arlene Foster her job.
“It’s not perfect and I think Rachel did it in a very sensible and grown up way and so I think we’ve just got to be braver in talking about it again.”
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Hodgson acknowledged that Brexit could be beneficial in a decade once the UK has harnessed the “freedoms and flexibility” it offered, but stressed that in the “short term there would be a fair amount of pain”.
In March, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility estimated that the UK will suffer a 4% hit to economic output over the 15 years after the EU referendum of 2016, which Labour said could cost every household up to £3,600 over that time.
Hodgson said: “There is Brexit pain.
“When I talk to people now I think people are more willing to recognise that there is some short term pain – that short term could go on to be up to 10 years.
“They weren’t willing to hear that at all before, it was scaremongering.”
She went on: “We’ve got to make the most of it now, we’ve got to make it work.
“But there’s going to be some teething problems along the way and again that’s what Rachel [Reeves] was trying to do.
“And again, we’ve got to talk about that, not be afraid of talking about that, and not being afraid to say, come on, can we not try and make some of this better.”