Brexit pressure on Jeremy Corbyn as Sadiq Khan says Labour is a 'party of Remain'

Posted On: 
15th September 2019

Labour is a "party of Remain" that should back staying in the EU in any second referendum, according to Sadiq Khan.

Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan.
Credit: 
PA

The London mayor waded into the party's battle over its Brexit position as he also told the BBC's Andrew Marr that he personally backed "removing" Article 50.

Jeremy Corbyn has already committed Labour to holding a referendum on any Brexit deal agreed by the Commons, with the option of staying in the bloc on the ballot paper.

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But the party has not spelled out whether its election manifesto will contain a pledge to campaign for Remain in all circumstances, with fierce debate on the issue expected at this month's party conference in Manchester.

A string of frontbenchers including Emily Thornberry, Tom Watson and John McDonnell have already made clear that they would campaign to Remain if a fresh public vote was called.

Joining those ranks, Mr Khan said: "I'm quite clear: we're a Remain party." 

And he added: "I think a negotiation with the EU won't made things more favourable than remaining in the EU."

Mr Khan meanwhile denied that those Labour politicians urging the party to campaign to stay in the EU risked undermining efforts by Jeremy Corbyn to bring Brexiteers and Remainers together.

He added: "Jeremy Corbyn deserves huge credit for the movement over the last two or three years, putting aside political interest in relation to not having a general election and working with other parties to avoid no-deal Brexit. 

"And actually, I support the position of the party, which is on a ballot to have a credible Leave option and in my view the best option which is to remaining the EU."

But he added: "My view, though is as a party we should campaign for [Remain]... Whether it's a no-deal Brexit, whether it's the deal negotiated by Theresa May, whether it's an improvement that a Labour government may achieve - that is far less favourable than the option of staying in the EU. And once we've got the public vote we should campaign to remain in the EU."

Mr Khan's intervention came as a group of Labour councillors urged the party to commit to an unequivocal pro-Remain position.

A letter to the Labour's ruling National Executive Committee - seen by The Observer - urges the party to "campaign unambiguously and energetically for a public vote on Brexit and to endorse a ‘remain and transform’ position in all circumstances". 

'PANIC'

Elsewhere in his BBC interview, Mr Khan also repeated his call, first made in earlier this year, for the Prime Minister to revoke Article 50 - a move that goes much further than Labour's own position on Brexit.

"The mistake made by Theresa May was serving a notice to quit before realising the terms of our exit," the London mayor said.

“Nobody sensibly would serve notice to quit their accommodation before they’ve found new digs. Nobody would quit their job before they’ve found a new job."

Mr Khan insisted the UK could then re-serve Article 50 if the British public decided that they wanted to leave the EU in a referendum.

"Since December I’ve said what we we should do is is take away the panic, remove Article 50 to give us time to resolve negotiations with the EU to understand what we want," he said.