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Labour's Tom Watson says he will vote for Theresa May's Brexit deal if she agrees to second referendum

Labour's Tom Watson says he will vote for Theresa May's Brexit deal if she agrees to second referendum
4 min read

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson will tell Theresa May he is prepared to vote for her Brexit deal if she agrees to allow a second EU referendum.

In a major intervention, the party's deputy leader will tell a rally demanding a so-called People's Vote on Saturday that he is prepared to help the embattled Prime Minister get her agreement through the House of Commons - but only if she lets "the people have a vote on it too".

Mr Watson - who organisers said would take "centre stage" at the 'Put It To The People' rally this weekend - will tell second referendum supporters he is "proud to be marching" alongside them.

But his comments come just hours after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made clear that he would be staying away from Saturday's protest for fear of "alienating Brexit supporters".

Addressing the rally on Saturday, Mr Watson will talk up a public vote on Brexit as "the only way to resolve" Britain's EU deadlock.

The Labour deputy will tell supporters: "Brexit is currently stuck in the pipework of Parliament, with MPs split, completely unable to agree or find a way forward. The current impasse is not working for people who voted to leave or people who voted to stay.

"I really don’t think Parliament will be able to resolve this.

"That’s why I’ve come to the reluctant view that the only way to resolve this and have legitimacy in the eyes of the public is for the people themselves to sign it off. It can only bring closure if we're all involved in making the decision.

"It can only begin to bring the country back together again if we all have a final say – and then live with the result.

"So, I have an explicit message for Theresa May: I will vote for your deal or a revised deal you can agree with my party.

"I will help you get it over the line to prevent a disastrous no deal exit. But I can only vote for your deal - or any deal - if you let the people have a vote on it too."


But Mr McDonnell made clear that he would be staying away from the protest, and told Channel 4 News the rally "might alienate some of the people who are strong Leavers who I want to bring on board".

The Labour frontbencher added: "What I don't want to do at this stage is alienate either side but actually try and see whether or not we can actually get a compromise that will hold."

Nevertheless, a string of Labour MPs from across the party's ideological factions will join the second referendum push on Saturday, with London mayor Sadiq Khan also set to address the march.

Key parliamentary supporters of Jeremy Corbyn including shadow minister Clive Lewis, former shadow international development secretary Kate Osamor and Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle will join a so-called 'Left Bloc' at the rally, while centre-left MPs including Jess Philips and David Lammy will also be taking part.

Tory grandee Lord Heseltine and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are also due to address the march, which will work its way from London’s Park Lane to Parliament Square.

Labour agreed a resolution at its conference last year which committed the party to campaigning for a fresh public vote on Brexit if it could not secure a general election.

But PoliticsHome revealed earlier this week that Mr Corbyn faces the prospect fresh resignations from his top team if he orders MPs to support a backbench bid to secure a so-called ‘People’s Vote’.

Labour backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson are preparing to lay an amendment next week that seeking a fresh public vote in which the choice would be between a Brexit deal and staying in the EU.

But the Labour leader could face a similar exodus of shadow ministers if he whips MPs to support the Kyle-Wilson amendment.

One MP told PoliticsHome: “I campaigned in the general election for a softer Brexit and I reassured voters we would honour the referendum.

“I would be going back on my word if I voted for this amendment - there would be a sense of betrayal.”

Another MP meanwhile said they would challenge Mr Corbyn to sack them.

"I’ve said all along that a second referendum isn’t the way to go as my constituents expect us to deliver Brexit.

"But I love my frontbench position and will have to be pushed out of it - I won’t be jumping."

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