Labour MPs warn Jeremy Corbyn backing second referendum would be 'toxic' for party
Labour MPs in Leave-backing areas have warned Jeremy Corbyn that backing a second EU referendum would be "toxic" for the party.
The comments came as the Shadow Cabinet once again put off a final decision on what Labour's Brexit policy should be.
Instead, Mr Corbyn said he wanted to hear the views of Labour MPs, trade unions and the general public before reaching a conclusion.
It was reported on Wednesday that Labour would wholeheartedly campaign for a second referendum on any Brexit deal passed by the Commons.
But in an open letter, the 26 MPs - including some frontbenchers - urged Mr Corbyn to reject that that idea and instead back any deal brought forward by the Government ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.
They said: "A commitment to a second referendum would be toxic to our bedrock Labour voters, driving a wedge between them and our party, jeopardising our role as a party of the whole nation, and giving the populist right an even greater platform in our heartlands.
"Labour has a vital role to play fighting for a Brexit for the many, not the few. But this is a battle best fought in stage two, after the UK has left.
"Rejecting any Brexit in the hope of securing a perfect deal risks the worst outcome - a no deal Brexit. This would further alienate many who backed Labour in 2017.
"We urge the party to put the national interest first, to back a deal before 31 October."
Speaking at the Shadow Cabinet meeting, Mr Corbyn repeated Labour's position that it respects the result of the 2016 referendum.
But he added: "I have already made the case, on the media and in Dublin, that it is now right to demand that any deal is put to a public vote. That is in line with our conference policy which agreed a public vote would be an option.
"A ballot paper would need to contain real choices for both leave and remain voters. This will of course depend on Parliament.
"I want to hear your views, I will be hearing trade union views next week, and then I want to set out our views to the public."
In a speech earlier this week, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson went much further by saying the party must campaign for Remain in any future referendum.
Further highlighting the party's splits on Europe, Rachel Maskell MP, of the 'Love Socialism Hate Brexit' group, said Labour must make its position clear before Theresa May's successor - widely expected to be Boris Johnson - is in Downing Street next month.
She said: "By late July, we will have an extreme right wing Tory Prime Minister, pursuing a hard Brexit that will wreck our communities and undermine our rights.
"As a party, we need to present a clear alternative to transform Britain and Europe, and we need to be energetic and enthusiastic about promoting it.
"Only a radical Labour message can keep us in Europe, and only by opposing Brexit can we be true to our values and set out a radical vision to transform the country. Our position must be crystal clear before Boris Johnson walks into Number 10."