John McDonnell says Labour ‘moving towards’ backing second EU referendum

Posted On: 
22nd February 2019

Labour is “moving towards” backing a second Brexit referendum that could see Britain end up staying in the European Union, John McDonnell has said.

John McDonnell's comments mark his strongest intervention on a second vote yet
PA Images

In a significant intervention, the Shadow Chancellor revealed Labour was "moving into implementation stages" of its conference motion that committed the party to considering a fresh vote.

He added that an amendment being drafted by two Labour backbenchers - which proposes a referendum on any deal backed by MPs - “could be a solution” to deliver the proposal.

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And he said such a referendum would automatically keep Britain in the bloc if the deal on the ballot paper was rejected by the public.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Mr McDonnell said: “On the people’s vote, we’ve kept it on the table and we’re moving towards that.”

He added: “If we were going on a people’s vote based on a deal that has gone through Parliament in some form, if that got voted down then you’d have status quo, and that would be Remain.”

An amendment set to be tabled by Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson would call on the Commons to back the deal clinched by Theresa May deal on the condition it was put to a nation-wide poll.

Mr McDonnell revealed he had asked the two MPs to redraft their plan - suggesting Labour is seriously considering backing it.

Asked how he would vote in another referendum, the Shadow Chancellor added: “I’ve said all along if there was another one I’d campaign for Remain and I’d vote for Remain.”


His comments follow a report in The Times suggesting Jeremy Corbyn risked a further exodus of Labour MPs, including shadow Cabinet ministers, if he failed to rally round a second referendum.

The Guardian said Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and deputy leader Tom Watson are among those pressing for a second vote in order to head off the potential for a further split.

It comes as Ian Austin became the ninth Labour MP to quit the party this week, following the eight who formed a new Independent Group.

The Dudley North MP, who will not join the new movement, said the party had failed to crack down on a “culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance”.

Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey confirmed their resignations on Monday morning, while Joan Ryan followed on Tuesday.

The Standard adds however that moving towards another referendum would face resistance from top Labour figures including party chair Ian Lavery and key Corbyn-ally Jon Trickett.

The pair are said to be concerned it could alienate pro-Leave Labour voters.