Labour delegates back Corbyn’s Brexit policy
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn secured key votes from delegates at the Labour Party conference as members supported his policy for the party to remain neutral until a new Brexit deal can be negotiated.
Party members voted down a motion which would have changed party policy to a pro-Remain stance.
Corbyn’s draft policy states that should Labour be elected, the party would adopt a neutral position and negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU within three months, with a referendum to be held within six months, pitting the new deal against the option to Remain.
The party would then hold a conference ahead of the new public vote in which it would decide on whether to campaign for the new Brexit deal or remaining in the EU.
The issue has caused a schism in the party, with the vote on the motion descending into chaos as the chair was forced to call a recount.
There was heavy activist presence at the conference pushing for the party to be clear on its Brexit policy and declare for Remain, but a motion to switch stance was dismissed in a show of hands.
Corbyn’s motion was comfortably passed, having secured the backing of a majority in all but one of the party’s 12 affiliate trade unions.
The result was met with protest, with a number of delegates present calling for an individual recount and one saying that an official card vote should be held over “one of the most important decisions Labour is going to take in the next decade”.
The divide on the issue is rife among Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, with Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer saying he would go against party policy and campaign to Remain.
Starmer said: “Would I have liked us to have gone a bit further and won that vote? Of course I would.
“But I don't want to take away from the fact that is quite considerable movement.”
Shadow Treasury minister Annaliese Dodds also believes that the party must support Remain in a new referendum due to the “severe” economic implications of exiting in the EU.
Meanwhile, Remain Labour founder Andrew Lewin is concerned that the party’s Brexit policy will “drive Remain voters away” at the next general election.
Len McCluskey, head of trade union Unite who backed Corbyn’s policy, said the result of the vote was testament to the loyalty of party members toward its leader and that now was the time for the party “to unite”.
McCluskey said: “What you've seen here is a massive show of support for Jeremy Corbyn.”
Speaking at a fringe meeting, MP for the pro-Leave Aberavon constituency, Stephen Kinnock, called the first two days of the party conference an “utter shambles”.
He said: “Our position on Brexit is being treated with ridicule on the doorsteps in my constituency.”
Kinnock added that the party should have stayed true to its 2017 manifesto by honouring the result of the referendum to avoid backlash from voters in pro-Leave constituencies.