Sadiq Khan warns Jeremy Corbyn that Labour cannot be ‘neutral’ over Brexit

Posted On: 
22nd September 2019

Sadiq Khan has warned Jeremy Corbyn that Labour must not be “neutral” and instead back Remain in a second EU referendum.

The London mayor launched the fres intervention as Labour's annual conference continued in Brighton.
Credit: 
PA

In a direct challenge to the Labour leader, the London mayor called on party members not to support any "fudge" Brexit position thrashed out by party bosses ahead at its annual conference in Brighton.

Labour has pledged to hold a fresh referendum on Brexit if it wins the next general election, but Mr Corbyn has refused to say how he would campaign in it.

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The Labour leader on Sunday confirmed that he favours plans for the party to hold a special conference to decide its position and said he would "go along with whatever decision the party comes to".

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "Please remember why people voted Leave, why people voted Remain, but also remember there is more that unites all of those people - over austerity, over investment, over education, over housing, over health, over a green industrial revolution - than there is that divides them."

The issue will be voted on in a conference showdown later this week.

But Mr Khan said Labour had arrived at a "vital crossroads" and cannot sit on the fence.

"At conference this week, we have the opportunity to come together to define how we seek to deal with the biggest challenge facing our country – Brexit," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"Labour's values of solidarity, social justice and internationalism are clearly best served by remaining in the European Union.

"So I'm making a direct appeal to delegates at Labour conference: do not accept any 'compromise' on Brexit, do not accept a fudge, do not delay us setting out what our stance would be in any future referendum."

Mr Khan added: “Labour is a Remain party and we need to make this official by making it our policy to campaign to stay in the European Union under all circumstances - and to whip all our MPs to back that position.

"Staying neutral in the face of the biggest economic and social threat to our country for decades is simply not an option.

"It’s time for Labour to commit to stopping Brexit - not only by promising to give the British public the final say, but by pledging to throw all our energy behind the campaign to stay in the European Union."

Meanwhile, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson also said the party must be unequivocally pro-Remain.

In his first intervention since a botched attempt by Jeremy Corbyn supporters to axe his post, he told a fringe event: “We are a Remain party. We are a European party. We are an internationalist party. That is who we are.

“Not perfect, not pure. But overwhelmingly committed to Britain remaining in Europe and reforming Europe.

“By backing a people’s vote, by backing Remain, I am sure we can deliver the Labour government the people of this country so badly need.”

‘LEAD THE CAMPAIGN'

The interventions came just hours after Shadow Cabinet members Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer piled the pressure on party bosses to back Remain in a second referendum.

Wearing an outfit emblazoned with the EU flag, Ms Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, told a rally organised by the People's Vote campaign: "Whatever terms are agreed by which we leave the European Union, by whatever government, no matter what it says, we must make sure that there's a second referendum, we must make sure that Remain is on the ballot paper, we must make sure that Labour campaigns for Remain - and not just that, but that we lead the campaign to Remain."

She added: "We believe in internationalism. We believe in socialism. And if we believe in internationalism and socialism - why on earth would we back Brexit?"

Speaking at the same rally - his first appearance under the banner of the group calling for a second vote on EU membership - Sir Keir Starmer meanwhile said Labour had "got to listen" to pro-EU party members.

And the Shadow Brexit Secretary confirmed that he would personally push for a Remain outcome in a fresh referendum.

"When that time comes I will campaign for Remain alongside millions of other people in this country, because it's not just a technical question of whether you want to be in or out of the EU, it's about what sort of country we want to be."