Victory for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour NEC agrees referendum fudge for European manifesto
Labour's manifesto for the European Parliament will not contain a pledge to hold a second Brexit referendum.
In a major victory for Jeremy Corbyn, the party's ruling national executive committee agreed that another nationwide poll should only be "an option" if it cannot force a general election.
The result is a blow for Labour deputy leader Tom Watson as well as the leaders of the GMB, Unison, Usdaw and TSSA unions, who had all called for a referendum to be held on any Brexit deal agreed by Parliament.
At the end of a five-hour meeting of the NEC, a Labour source said: "The NEC agreed the manifesto which will be fully in line with Labour’s existing policy; to support Labour’s alternative plan, and if we can’t get the necessary changes to the government’s deal, or a General Election, to back the option of a public vote."
A party spokesperson said: "Labour’s European elections manifesto was agreed at the NEC today and it will be published soon.
"Labour is the only party which represents both people who supported Leave and Remain. We are working to bring the country together after the chaos and crisis created by the Tories.”
But Labour MP Bridget Phillipson, a supporter of the People's Vote campaign, said: "The manifesto’s mealy-mouthed wording still maintains the fiction that there is a deal out there that can satisfy all the promises made three years ago, avoid real costs to jobs and living standards, or end the endless crisis around Brexit.
"This means Labour risks demoralising activists, depressing turnout among supporters and decreasing the share of the vote for candidates who - like the overwhelming majority of our party - are fighting for a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal."
Ian Blackford, the SNP's leader at Westminster, said: “Labour’s failure to unequivocally put the issue of EU membership back to the people in a referendum means they are conspiring in the Tory-led Brexit shambles
"Jeremy Corbyn today had an opportunity to help bring a EU referendum closer, but instead he has chosen to continue his complicity in the Tories’ plan to remove us from the EU."
Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: "With all the Brexit chaos, it beggars belief that the Labour leadership have failed to unequivocally commit to giving the people the opportunity to exit from Brexit.
"Today’s pointless deliberations by the Labour NEC amount to nothing more than a stitch up by Corbyn’s cronies. They have once again chosen to ignore their own supporters and the interests of the country. "