Labour will table its own bid for second Brexit referendum, John McDonnell confirms

Posted On: 
28th February 2019

Labour has confirmed it will launch its own bid for a second Brexit referendum when Theresa May puts her EU deal to a Commons vote in the coming weeks.

Labour confirmed it would back a second referendum 'to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome'.
Credit: 
PA

Speaking after MPs rejected Labour's latest parliamentary attempt to secure a softer Brexit, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the party would table its own amendment calling for a fresh public vote.

"When the meaningful vote comes back, and we're told maybe that might be in March 12 or whatever - there's rumours today that it could be next week - and we'll see [...] that's the time when we'll have to put the amendment up," the frontbencher told ITV's Peston show.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile said: "We will back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome."

But Mr Corbyn also made clear that Labour had not yet abandoned efforts to try and force the Prime Minister out of office or pass its own version of Brexit.

"We will also continue to push for the other available options to prevent those outcomes, including a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election," he said.

Mr McDonnell meanwhile said: “We are still going to argue that we want a general election, we are still going to argue we think our deal that we have put up was the best option. But we realise... we have got to break this deadlock.”

'REAL CONCERNS'

Debate has raged in the Labour ranks over whether or not to throw the party's weight behind a second Brexit referendum, with some fearing that the move could alienate Leave-supporting voters who would otherwise back the party.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy - whose seat voted heavily to leave the EU in the 2016 - warned the party against offering voters a "couple of options cooked up in Westminster" by backing a new referendum.

"There's a real problem here," she told the same show. "Because not listening to people, not responding to very real concerns is frankly what go us here in the first place.

"We're about to go back and repeat all those mistakes again. And worse than that, actually, we're not being clear with people still."

But Mr McDonnell said the party had been "forced" into offering a second referendum because of Mrs May's failure to secure Commons backing for her deal in an historic vote last night.

"My constituency voted leave and I've got to go back... to explain to the people in my constituency this is why I've come to this conclusion, because almost I've been forced to," he said.

"We've gone through every path.

"There's been no deal that's been brought forward that is acceptable to parliament at the moment that will accept their jobs and their livelihoods.

"So we've been forced into this situation where there's no other route that we can see other than this."

PoliticsHome revealed earlier this week that several members of the Shadow Cabinet have already attacked the party's decision to swing behind a second referendum.

Labour chairman Ian Lavery, a long-standing opponent of a second referendum, said the new policy was "political suicide", while Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett also criticised the move.

Labour agreed a motion at its 2018 annual conference which said that the party "cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote".