Jeremy Corbyn defies Labour calls to back Remain as he hints he will stay neutral in second Brexit referendum

Posted On: 
18th September 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has risked a fresh Labour row by signalling that he would stay neutral in a second Brexit referendum.

The Labour leader said he would "carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister".
Credit: 
PA

The Labour leader has been urged by senior figures in the party to explicitly back staying in the EU in its next general election manifesto.

Party members are also expected to launch a fresh attempt to shift its Brexit policy to an explicitly pro-Remain stance at next week's annual conference in Brighton.

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But, writing in The Guardian, Mr Corbyn dropped his clearest hint yet that he would stay above the fray in a second referendum. 

"A Labour government would secure a sensible deal based on the terms we have long advocated, including a new customs union with the EU; a close single market relationship; and guarantees of workers’ rights and environmental protections,” he said. 

"We would then put that to a public vote alongside Remain. I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister."

The stance puts him at odds with members of the Shadow Cabinet including deputy leader Tom Watson, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, chief whip Nick Brown and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, last weekend described Labour as a "party of Remain" that should back staying in the EU in any second referendum.

But, in a dig at the Government as well as the explicitly anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, Mr Corbyn said Labour was now the "only UK-wide party ready to put our trust in the people of Britain to make the decision".

He said: "Johnson wants to crash out with no deal. That is something opposed by business, industry, the trade unions and most of the public – and even by the Vote Leave campaign’s co-convener, Michael Gove, who said earlier this year: ‘We didn’t vote to leave without a deal.’

"And now the Liberal Democrats want MPs to overturn the referendum result by revoking article 50 in a parliamentary stitch-up. It is simply undemocratic to override the decision of a majority of the voters without going back to the people.

"Labour is the only party determined to bring people together. Only a vote for Labour will deliver a public vote on Brexit. Only a Labour government will put the power back into the hands of the people. Let’s stop a no-deal Brexit – and let the people decide."

'CANCEL THE 2016 REFERENDUM'

The comments were quickly seized on by the Conservatives, with Tory Party chairman James Cleverly claiming Labour wanted to "ignore the largest democratic vote in our country’s history and cancel the referendum result".

“They had the chance to let the public decide how to resolve Brexit via a general election – but Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t trust the people," he added.

Mr Corbyn's intervention risks angering pro-Remain supporters and comes after analysis by the left-wing Another Europe is Possible group revealed that 81 of the 90 conference motions sent in by constituency branches about Brexit urge the party to back staying in the EU in a second referendum.

The group said that not a single motion submitted to conference so far supports Brexit, with that figure matching polling among Labour members, "which shows that more than 90% support Remain".

Shadow minister Marsha de Cordova - who backs the group - said of the findings: "There is no middle ground when it comes to campaigning in an EU referendum.

“We tried to fudge our line before and failed dramatically. Our members and activists won’t forgive us if we do that again.

"It’s time to take a side and expose Brexit as the completely destructive Tory project it is."