Keir Starmer: Labour must not rule out backing second EU referendum
Labour must not rule out backing a second referendum if it fails to force a general election, Keir Starmer has insisted.
Jeremy Corbyn has appeared reluctant to back the policy, despite a Labour conference motion committing the party to supporting a "public vote" if all other options are exhausted.
But speaking at a Fabians conference in London, Sir Keir said the pledge was "a very important commitment ... and it is one that we will keep".
The Shadow Brexit Secretary said: "Securing a general election is - and always will be - our priority as it’s the only way to deliver the radical change this country needs, but we are now at the third phase of our policy.
"Our conference motion states that if we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.
"That is a very important commitment. It’s a commitment to you, our members and our movement. And it is one we will keep."
Sir Keir added: "I know there is significant support for this in our membershi, in many trade unions, among a number of Labour MPs in this city and, most likely, in this hall.
"As I set out in Liverpool, this has to be an option for Labour. After all, deeply embedded in our values are internationalism, collaboration and cooperation with our European partners."
Eloise Todd, boss of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: "It's really encouraging to see the Shadow Brexit Secretary set out that the party has moved to the next stage and a public vote is on the table.
"As Keir Starmer made clear, the Labour party must stay true to the commitment it made at conference, and back the option to remain in a future public vote. Given there will not be a general election, that means the party must move to campaign for the people to have the final say as the best way out of the current parliamentary gridlock.
"Labour members and their voters everywhere are now counting on the Labour front bench to deliver on that promise."
Meanwhile, Tom Watson told the Fabians conference that Labour must remain a broad church if it is to stand a chance of winning the next election.
In a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, the party's deputy leader said Labour "cannot rest on the manifesto for the last election and hope it will deliver victory for us in the next".
"We need now to show that we have a programme and a vision for how to equip all our people for the economic changes the new technological revolution will bring," he said.
"We must turn our vision to rebuild Britain for the many, not the few into a programme that will deliver both within and beyond our traditional Labour base. If we do not do that, we will have failed in our duty.
"If we do not do that we will lose people because of it. If we do not do that, someone else will."