Jeremy Corbyn urged to 'stop wriggling' on Brexit after claim that second referendum 'some way off'

Posted On: 
30th May 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has been urged to "stop wriggling" around Labour calls for a second EU referendum after his claim that any opportunity for a fresh public vote is “some way off”.

Jeremy Corbyn leaving Government Buildings in Dublin following a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Credit: 
PA Images

The Labour leader has come under increased pressure to fully endorse a second vote, after the party was humbled at last week’s EU elections over its confused message on Brexit.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Labour's deputy Tom Watson are among the senior figures to have ramped up calls in recent days.

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However speaking to ITV News on a visit to Ireland, Mr Corbyn said the party could not back a “re-run” of the first referendum, where voters were asked if they wanted to Remain or Leave the European Union.

“We don’t back a re-run of 2016. That happened, that’s gone,” he said.

“What I do say is that if Parliament comes to an agreement then it’s reasonable, if Parliament wishes it, there should be a public vote on it. But that is some way off.”

Labour MP Wes Streeting, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said Mr Corbyn should “stop wriggling and start leading”.

“The overwhelming majority of Labour members and Labour voters now know that giving the public the final say on Brexit is the only way to deliver a lasting and stable conclusion to this crisis,” he said.

“If the simple fact that continued ambiguity on Brexit is badly damaging our party wasn’t clear enough already, the disastrous results of the European elections for Labour should have rammed it home.

“Our vote share sunk to historic lows, it was arguably the worst ever election result for the Labour Party in its modern form.

“And by a margin of more than four to one Labour voters were flocking to parties that give unequivocal backing for a final say referendum rather than Nigel Farage’s party.”

Labour's conference last autumn voted to keep the option of another vote "on the table" if it were unable to trigger a general election or if it were needed to halt a "damaging" Tory Brexit.

Mr Streeting added that Mr Corbyn needed to act on growing calls from members and Shadow Cabinet allies, such as Mr McDonnell, instead of “unelected advisers who are damaging our party so much”.

The opposition leader faces a headache to keep his party together however, with his intervention coming a day after Labour chairman Ian Lavery calling for the prospect of another vote to be ruled out.

The Shadow frontbencher also accused campaigners for a second referendum of "sneering" at Brexit supporters.

Writing in the Guardian, he said: "As someone who has opposed a so-called public vote, not least because Parliament has no majority for it in principle and nobody has the faintest idea what we would actually put on the ballot, I have been doggedly attacked by certain sections of the party, as well as those on the outside.

“It does feel that a certain portion of “leftwing intellectuals” are sneering at ordinary people and piling on those trying to convey the feelings of hundreds of thousands of Labour voters.

“Perhaps, in reflecting on the results, we should consider the effect all of this has had.”