Brexit: Corbyn urged to clearly back second referendum

Labour’s European Parliament leader warns party risks haemorrhaging votes to rivals

Jeremy Corbyn: insists Theresa May must compromise on her Brexit red lines if cross-party talks are to succeed. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing calls from his own party and the SNP to explicitly commit to another referendum on Brexit.

Richard Corbett, Labour’s leader in the European Parliament, warned that voters could desert the party in the EU election unless it committed to a public vote.

He told the Observer: “If Labour does not re-confirm its support for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal in its manifesto, then it will haemorrhage votes to parties who do have a clear message. If, on the other hand, we do offer clarity and a confirmatory ballot, we could do very well.”

Former Labour foreign secretary Margaret Beckett echoed his calls, saying a “lack of clarity” could cost the party not only in the EU election, but in the next general election too.


She told the paper: “It is very important that there is a clear message about where Labour stands and what Labour is offering. In my view that clear and simple message should be that there should be a confirmatory vote of the British people.”

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said Mr Corbyn must stop wasting time and that it would be “unforgivable” for Labour to avoid another referendum on EU membership. Mr Blackford warned against pushing through a Brexit deal that ends freedom of movement and removes single market access.

Earlier this week the EU granted a further extension to article 50 and the UK is now set to depart on October 31st.

Mr Blackford said: “Talks have been ongoing between both the Tory government and Labour Party for over a week but not a single compromise has been tabled.

“Instead of wasting more time, Labour must make clear to the Tories that the answer to the Brexit deadlock is to put the decision back to the people.

“It is no secret that the Labour leader has ducked and dived on the issue of a second EU referendum, but at this crucial crossroads it is high time Jeremy Corbyn commits to putting a second referendum on the table as the only way forward.”

Red lines

Mr Corbyn has insisted that UK prime minister Theresa May must compromise on her Brexit red lines if cross-party talks on EU withdrawal are to succeed.

The Labour leader said it was “scandalous” the prime minister did not seek dialogue with Labour on Brexit earlier.

Mr Corbyn said Mrs May should not use the delay of Brexit until October 31st as a chance to put her withdrawal agreement to the Commons again.

Referring to the talks between the government and Labour, Mr Corbyn said: “It’s scandalous that it came so late in the Brexit process, not at the 11th hour, not even at five to midnight, but at five past midnight after she missed her own deadline of the 29th of March.

“And I have to say, it is a challenge to negotiate with a government that’s collapsing – when you can’t be sure if commitments made by the prime minister will survive the week and when cabinet collective responsibility has given way to collective irresponsibility, with ministers contradicting each other on the airwaves.”

Tory leadership

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith has called on Mrs May to stand down as soon as next month as he called the party’s failure to leave the EU on time “a disaster”.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I think that what the PM has to do is aim everything now towards departure before the Euros [elections], which would then allow her to step away having done what she said she would do, getting the UK out of the European Union one way or the other and then we can have another leadership election and pick a new leader, which is the way it has to be.”

Mr Duncan-Smith said polling on the party was concerning and blamed the delay to Brexit.

A poll by Opinium put Labour seven points ahead of the Tories. The survey shows Labour climbing one point to 36 per cent, while the Conservatives have dropped six points in two weeks to stand at 29 per cent.

Ukip are up two points to 11 per cent on the survey, and the Liberal Democrats have dropped one point to 8 per cent. – PA