Labour Brexit rebels warn Jeremy Corbyn he is 'playing with fire' over backing for second EU referendum
Labour MPs have warned Jeremy Corbyn he is “playing with fire” by pushing for a second referendum on leaving the European Union.
In a fresh sign of the Brexit divide within the party, Lisa Nandy, whose Wigan constituency voted heavily to leave the bloc in 2016, said Labour risked “democratic harm” with the move.
Mr Corbyn told MPs and peers at a meeting last Monday that that the party would support another referendum as a way of blocking Theresa May's Brexit deal.
He said Labour would support an amendment in favour of a public vote in the Commons later this month in order to prevent Britain crashing out of the bloc without a deal.
But Ms Nandy said many were prepared to “withstand some economic difficulty” in order to gain more power over their lives and that leaving the EU could “reset” politics so that long-neglected areas are “no longer invisible”.
"I still think that remaining within the EU and addressing those questions is a much better option, but the reality out there on the ground is in the last few years people have dug into their positions," she told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I don’t see any evidence really that people have changed their minds and even if I did, I think there’s a real problem here.
“We now say that we want a second referendum, but we haven’t done anything to build that case in the last couple of years and I just think the democratic harm that we’re about to do is simply playing with fire and we’ve got to be really, really careful.”
Meanwhile, Don Valley MP Caroline Flint said around 60 to 70 Labour MPs “feel as strongly” as she does in opposing a second referendum.
“Myself and so many Labour MPs in the general election 2017 made a promise to respect the outcome of the referendum and that was Labour’s policy,” she told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show on Sky News.
“So my appeal, to Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, to Keir Starmer, is to allow MPs a free vote on an improved deal, so those who want a second referendum can vote for that but those of us who want to keep our promises to our electorate can also keep faith with those people.”
It came shortly after Mr McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, suggested the party would whip it’s MPs into backing a second vote.
He told the same programme: “Normally we will whip and that will be decided in the normal way by the chief whip and the shadow cabinet and the party overall...
“I think on an issue as this we would see a whip but also you’ve got to respect people’s views and their constituency interests as well, and the whipping arrangement will be determined in discussion in due course.”