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Jeremy Corbyn under pressure as 80 MPs demand public vote on Brexit deal

3 min read

Dozens of Labour backbenchers have urged Jeremy Corbyn to commit to putting any Brexit deal agreed by the Commons to a public vote.

In a letter to the Labour leader, MPs said it would be “untenable” for the party to back any compromise Brexit deal that did not include a confirmatory vote.

Labour has been increasingly split over plans for a second referendum, with Mr Corbyn insisting that it should only take place to prevent a no-deal or “damaging Tory Brexit”.

But talks between Labour negotiators and the Government to find a deal which could support among MPs have remained deadlocked after three days of discussions, with Jeremy Corbyn accusing ministers of refusing to budge on their red-lines.

The letter, signed by 10 shadow ministers and several close allies of the leader, warned Labour’s “reputation with its membership and the electorate” would be undermined if it failed to include the promise. 

The group said the talks were a “desperate move” by the Prime Minister, but urged Mr Corbyn to put a second public vote as the “bottom-line” of the negotiations.

”The only way to guarantee jobs, rights and protections - and Labour’s reputation with its membership and the electorate - is to support a confirmatory public vote on any option which is agreed by parliament, which will put additional pressure on the government to hold the General Election the country needs,” they wrote.

They also warned Mr Corbyn that any concessions secured on the UK’s future relationship with the EU would be non-binding and could be “ripped up” by a future Tory leader.

They added: “The views of members are clear. Labour’s democratically established policy, passed at party conference in September 2018, is to oppose a Brexit deal which does not meet Labour’s six tests and put any deal that does to a public vote.

"It would be untenable for Labour not to insist on a public vote on a deal which did not meet these tests.

“It is not Labour’s job to rescue Theresa May and usher in her successor. We need a general election to kick out the Tories. It is our job to find a way to break the deadlock. In our view, the only way to do that is with a public vote.”

Last week, deputy leader Tom Watson said the party was "bound by conference policy" to pursue another public vote on whatever deal is eventually passed by the Commons.

He warned that any deal which failed to include the commitment would infuriate backbench MPs.

But in a sign of the growing splits within the party over Brexit, the letter comes just days after a group of 25 backbench MPs wrote to Mr Corbyn urging him to refuse to sign-up to another referendum.

The MPs, from predominantly Leave-backing constituencies, warned that any such commitment could be electorally damaging for the party.

"Delaying for many months in the hope of a second referendum will simply divide the country further and add further for business," they wrote.

"A second referendum would be exploited by the far-right, damage the trust of many core Labour voters and reduce our chances of winning a general election."

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