Top ally of Jeremy Corbyn blasts calls for second Brexit referendum in blow for pro-EU campaigners

Posted On: 
25th January 2019

A top ally of Jeremy Corbyn has rubbished calls to hold a second referendum on Brexit in a major blow for pro-EU campaigners.

Labour chair Ian Lavery has dismayed pro-EU campaigners
PA Images

Labour chair Ian Lavery said a fresh vote on the issue “risks serious damage to the relationship between many citizens and politicians at Westminster”.

His comments appear to cut across the Labour policy - agreed at party conference next year - that it could back a new poll if it fails to secure a general election.

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It comes as anti-Brexit campaigners pile pressure on Mr Corbyn to back their demands for Brits to be asked again on whether the UK should quit the bloc.

Labour party members overwhelmingly back the calls and want to remain in the EU, but the leadership fears joining the drive could alienate swathes of voters in pro-Leave heartlands.

Mr Lavery left second referendum campaigners disheartened today when he wrote in the Guardian that while his party had committed to keeping the option of fresh vote open, he feared the consequences.

“We should be in no doubt that asking the voters to vote again on an issue they have already given an answer, until they come up with the right answer, risks serious damage to the relationship between many citizens and politicians at Westminster,” he said.

He added: “We should not forget that every Labour MP was elected on a manifesto that pledged our acceptance of the result of the referendum. Labour believes that a different deal can be secured.”

And he argued that a Labour government was “the answer to the woes of our country", rather than "rerunning a divisive campaign that seems likely to deliver the same result again”.

Labour MP Anna McMorrin, speaking on behalf of the People’s Vote campaign, accused Mr Lavery of peddling “false framing” by arguing a fresh vote and a Labour government were mutually exclusive.

She added that seeing Brexit happen would “be seen as an establishment stitch-up” that will turn both Remain and Leave voters off Labour.

And she said: “Leaving this decision to a tiny number of MPs is not the way to build support or respect for politics.”

Labour MP Mike Gapes meanwhile told his fellow pro-EU campaigners on Twitter: "It is time to take the scales from your eyes. Labour leadership plan to facilitate Brexit."

Lib Dem MP Tom Brake chipped in: “I am sure many Labour voters will see these comments by their party chair as the real divisiveness.”

The comments by Mr Lavery serve as the latest blow for the People’s Vote campaign after it dropped plans to table a Commons amendment calling for a new referendum amid infighting over strategy.

But the MPs involved turned the blame onto Mr Corbyn, who they said “avoids answering” their call.