Jeremy Corbyn criticised over Brexit 'fudge' as Shadow Cabinet delays final decision

Posted On: 
25th June 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of failing to stand up to Unite boss Len McCluskey after the Shadow Cabinet again delayed making a final decision on the party's Brexit position.

Len McCluskey and Jeremy Corbyn are close political allies.
PA Images

Labour's most senior frontbenchers had been expected to formally endorse backing a second EU referendum in all circumstances when they met on Tuesday morning.

But Mr Corbyn said he was delaying a decision for two more weeks so he could hold further talks with trade union leaders.

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The move came just 24 hours after John McDonnell said there would be "white smoke" on Labour's position following the Shadow Cabinet meeting.

PoliticsHome revealed on Monday that the majority of unions affiliated to Labour now back a second referendum and for the party to campaign for Remain if it takes place.

However, bosses from Unite and the CWU both made it clear to the Labour leader that they did not.

It is understood that there were angry scenes in the Shadow Cabinet meeting, with Mr Corbyn being warned that Labour must get off the fence or continue losing votes to the Lib Dems and Greens.

Labour MP Neil Coyle, who backs another referendum, said: "Jeremy's position is that any decision has to be taken in consultation with the unions, but that doesn't mean talking to trade union members because we know they overwhelmingly back another referendum.

"It is all about whether we can get Len McCluskey to shift, but Jeremy knows the answer to that before he asks the question.

"The Labour leader is responsible for trying to get Labour policies in government. We have suffered defeats because of our Brexit fudge, and to be so out of sync with our members, their views and our party's values is shocking and risks facilitating more Tory government.

"Members are desperate to see the Labour party move, but the leadership seems totally dependent on one trade union leader giving his permission to change party policy. That's an unaccpetable situation."

A source close to Mr Corbyn pointed to his comments ahead of a recent trip to Dublin to explain Labour's Brexit position.

The Labour leader said: "Faced with the threat of no deal and a Prime Minister with no mandate, the only way out of the Brexit crisis ripping our country apart is now to go back to the people. Let the people decide the country’s future, either in a general election or through a public vote on any deal agreed by parliament.

"For Labour any outcome has to work for our whole country, not just one side of this deliberately inflamed divide."

Labour MP Ian Murray, who backs a second referendum, told PoliticsHome: "I don’t know what more evidence the Shadow Cabinet requires.

"Labour lost four votes to Remain parties for every vote lost to Leave. All the evidence is clear but the Shadow Cabinet still want to continue this constructive ambiguity. If the decision is being delayed because of Len McCluskey then I hope he takes full responsibility for every single Unite member and non Unite member who loses their job as a result of Brexit.

"The Shadow Cabinet need to agree what the vast majority of Labour members and supporters want and that’s a confirmatory vote on any deal. Jeremy Corbyn, Keir Starmer and Tom Watson have all said this on numerous ocassions now so what are they waiting for?"

Naomi Smith, boss of the Best for Britain group, which campaigns for a second referendum, said:"Our data shows that Labour must act quickly to back a final say on any form of Brexit, and to campaign for Remain when that vote happens.

"Right now the party is being squeezed from both sides of the electorate. Voters are leaving the party in their droves, with three and a half fold more leaving for Remain parties than Brexit-backing ones.

"The Shadow Cabinet and those around the Labour leader know this. But while they want to take a while with this decision, time is not something we have. We need an opposition that opposes Brexit."