Unite leaves door open to demanding second Brexit referendum

Posted On: 
3rd July 2018

Unite has left open the possibility of calling for a second referendum on Brexit - potentially piling pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Len McCluskey is a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Credit: 
PA Images

The major trade union - which is the biggest donor to Labour coffers - also said the party would be “highly unlikely” to vote for the final Brexit deal in parliament.

Mr Corbyn has rebuffed calls for a referendum on the deal Theresa May is due to bring back from Brussels later this year.

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But if Unite were to call for one he would be left in a tough position and pitted against his close ally, the union boss Len McCluskey.

Just yesterday the Unite general secretary said he would fight to change Labour policy if his members say they want a second referendum on Brexit.

In an executive statement endorsed by its conference today, Unite said the deal being hammererd out by the UK and EU is not on course to satisfy the six tests set by Labour.

The statement said the chances of the party being able to back the deal in parliament were “highly unlikely”, adding: “At such a moment Unite will mobilise against the deal.”

It said that in such a scenario its "priority will be to force an early general election" to try to get Labour into power.

And it added: “We are also open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal, depending on political circumstances.

“Within these principles, the executive council has authority to respond as it thinks best to a fast-changing political situation.”

Anti-Brexit campaigners said the endorsement of the statement was “a very welcome step in the right direction”.

Best for Britain CEO Eloise Todd added: “But we mustn't wait until it is too late to take action...

"The decision on the final Brexit deal must be put back in the hands of ordinary people so that they can decide what's best for their own families’ future."

A poll published at the weekend suggested 57% of Unite members would back a vote on the final Brexit deal.

Mr McCluskey sought to discredit the poll - but he did vow to ensure the demands of members would be heard loud and clear in the Labour leadership office.

“Be under no illusions. Whatever decision is taken tomorrow by our members here at our policy conference that becomes Unite policy,” he told Radio Four's World At One programme yesterday.

“And I will use all of the influence and power of oratory that I have to promote that policy.”

Asked if he would use that power to secure a change in the Labour approach, he said: “We always do.”