EXCL Labour chairman warns Jeremy Corbyn party 'could be finished' if he backs referendum

Posted On: 
4th April 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned by one of his closest allies that Labour "could be finished" if he backs a second EU referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn prepares for his talks with Theresa May with Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey
Credit: 
PA Images

Ian Lavery, Labour's chairman, told Mr Corbyn that could go down in history as the leader who split the party unless he delivered on the result of the last vote in 2016.

The warning came at a special meeting of the Shadow Cabinet after the Labour leader had held talks with Theresa May about trying to break the Brexit deadlock.

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A further day of "intensive" negotiations between senior government and Labour figures will also take place on Thursday as the Prime Minister desperately tries to get some kind of agreement passed by the Commons.

Mr Corbyn is under pressure from many within his own party, including leading frontbenchers, to insist that any deal should be put back to the people in another referendum.

However, a spokesman for the leader insisted he only favours a fresh public vote "to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a no-deal outcome".

Opposing views on the situation were expressed at the Shadow Cabinet meeting, but one source said those present were left "bemused" by Mr Lavery's intervention.

One told PoliticsHome: "Ian said 'this party could be finished by a people’s vote' and that Jeremy could be the Labour Prime Minister that splits the Labour party."

Mr Lavery also accused Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer of misrepresenting the Brexit policy agreed at last year's Labour conference, which committed the party to pursuing a second referendum if Theresa May's deal was rejected and there was no general electiion.

"Jeremy tried to close the meeting to shut him up, but he just kept on shouting and wagging his finger," the source added.

PoliticsHome revealed on Wednesday how Mr Lavery offered his resignation after twice breaking a three line whip to abstain on a vote calling for a referendum on any Brexit deal passed by the Commons.

However, it was rejected by Mr Corbyn, despite five Labour frontbenchers having to quit last month for failing to follow the party line on a referendum.

UNISON

Meanwhile, fresh pressure has been heaped on Mr Corbyn to back another referendum after the country's biggest trade union backed one.

Unsion general secretary Dave Prentis said any Brexit deal passed by MPs should be put back to the people.

He said: "A general election is our preferred option, but until that time, the so-called Norway+ plan, allowing the UK to remain in the customs union and the single market is the next best bet.

“Whatever deal emerges in the coming days should be put to the country. We cannot allow the UK’s future to be dashed on the rocks of a no-deal Brexit.”