Keir Starmer says Labour will campaign for a second Brexit vote if no election after EU deal failure
Labour will campaign for a second Brexit referendum if parliament votes down the deal Theresa May secures with the EU and she refuses to call a general election, Keir Starmer declared today.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary said the party must “break the impasse” if the negotiations break down and insisted to huge applause: “Nobody is ruling out Remain as an option.”
He made the comments in his keynote speech to the annual Labour conference in Liverpool - where delegates are set to back a possible second referendum.
And the remarks serve as a final slapdown to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who yesterday suggested the party would not offer a way out of Brexit.
Sir Keir told the conference hall that Labour would demand a second referendum if parliament votes down the Brexit deal Theresa May strikes with Brussels.
“But if a General Election is not possible then other options must be kept open. That includes campaigning for a public vote,” he added.
“It is right for Parliament to have the first say but if we need to break the impasse, our options must include campaigning for a public vote."
And in an extra line not included in his speech plan, he added: “Nobody is ruling out Remain as an option.” The remark won a standing ovation in the packed conference hall.
Sir Keir's speech was quickly pounced on by campaigners for a second Brexit referendum.
Labour MP Alison McGovern, speaking for the People's Vote campaign, said: "When Keir Starmer says Labour must campaign for a public vote with remain as an option and he gets standing ovation from our party, you know just how far we’ve come in the past few weeks.
"Labour is united around a policy that can not only help us the next election but will ensue we can be the radical, reforming government we all want."
But Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis swiftly attacked the remark, saying: "Labour would take us back to square one on Brexit."
Pro-EU campaigners have been piling pressure on the Labour party to offer voters a second referendum on Brexit.
The membership is overwhelmingly pro-Remain, but many voters in working class Labour heartlands plumped for Leave at the 2016 referendum.
Mr McDonnell said on Monday: “The People's Vote will be on the deal itself and we can negotiate a better deal.”
He added: “If we are going to respect the last referendum, it will be about the deal, it will be a negotiation on the deal.”
But just hours later, Sir Keir said: “We weren’t ruling out options and nobody was ruling out Remain.”
He added: “Of course we have options because we don’t know what the future is going to bring.”
Labour delegates will vote later on a motion demanding a general election if parliament votes down the Brexit deal Theresa May strikes with Brussels.
But the motion adds: "If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote."
Meanwhile, Sir Keir refused to rule out extending Brexit negotiations by calling on EU member states to allow the Article 50 process to be prolonged.