Labour set for showdown over whether to back referendum on Brexit deal

Posted On: 
30th April 2019

Labour bosses are set for showdown talks on whether or not to back a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Campaigners for a People's Vote march through London.
Credit: 
PA Images

Members of the party's ruling national executive committee will gather for a two-hour meeting on Tuesday morning to thrash out what should be in its manifesto for next month's European Parliament elections.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn believe that a "people's vote" should only take place in order to halt a so-called "Tory Brexit".

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But a rival faction, led by deputy leader Tom Watson and backed by Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer as well as senior trade union leaders, insist that any deal should be put to the people in a confirmatory ballot.

In a tweet posted just hours before the 11am meeting kicks off, GMB general secretary Tim Roache said: "As the mover of the motion unanimously carried at Lab Party conf I am calling on the NEC to abide by party policy. Any final Brexit deal must be put to the people for them to decide whether or not it’s acceptable. A tradition that has always applied in our movement."

That position has also been backed by the powerful Unison, Usdaw and TSSA unions.

More than 100 Labour MPs and MEPs have also signed a letter to the NEC calling for a referendum on any Brexit deal.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the MP for Brighton Kemptown and co-founder of the Love Socialism Hate Brexit group, said: "Our letter shows that this isn't about any single faction in the Labour party. It's about the whole party coming together around a shared vision.

"A clear committment on a public vote on any deal must be the cornerstone of our manifesto.

"It is a compromise that can unite the whole party and our electoral coalition."

However, it is understood that the Unite and CWU representatives on the NEC will oppose any moves to back a referendum in all circumstances, teeing up a potentially-explosive clash.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable and Tom Brake, the party's Brexit spokesman, have meanwhile written to Jeremy Cable calling for him to back another referendum.

Mr Brake said: "Brexit has been the single most divisive issue the country has faced since the Iraq War. We believe that a people's vote is our only hope of getting closure on Brexit and starting to heal the rift it has caused. 

"It is long overdue the Leader of the Labour party backs his own party policy and helps make the final say a reality.”