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News | Published February 26 2019

Corbyn prepared to support second referendum

Jeremy Corbyn has told Labour MPs that the party will support a second referendum, or “People’s Vote”, if their Brexit plan is defeated in the Commons on Wednesday. Corbyn announced this shift by stating his desire to avoid a “damaging Tory Brexit.”

This support for a second referendum will only come into effect, however, if a series of Labour amendments are defeated in Parliament this week.

The first of these sets out Labour’s preferred Brexit approach: a softer form of exit with close alignment to the single market and membership of the customs union.

They have also announced the party will support the Cooper-Letwin amendment, proposed by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and the Conservative Sir Oliver Letwin, which states that an extension of Article 50 should be triggered if May does not pass her deal through Parliament by March 13.

This move comes at a time when the party has been rocked by defections to the newly established The Independent Group, all of whom support a second referendum.

As reported in The Guardian, a private briefing was sent to Labour MPs on Monday night informing them of this policy shift. 

The briefing said: “We’ve always said that any referendum would need to have a credible leave option and remain. Obviously at this stage that is yet to be decided and would have to be agreed by parliament.

“There’s no majority for a no-deal outcome and Labour would not countenance supporting no deal as an option. What we are calling for is a referendum to confirm a Brexit deal, not to proceed to no-deal.”

Corbyn told MPs that: “One way or another, we will do everything in our power to prevent no deal and oppose a damaging Tory Brexit based on Theresa May’s overwhelmingly rejected deal.”

He added, “That’s why, in line with our conference policy, we are committed to also putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.”

Although this move has been welcomed by some MPs, both within the party and without, there is likely to be significant backlash from both Leave-supporting Labour MPs and those who represent Leave constituencies. 

Former shadow minister Lucy Powell has stated she believes that up to 25 Labour MPs may rebel against the motion, making it difficult to pass without significant Conservative support.

Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
@theparlreview
February 26 2019

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