Jeremy Corbyn says he would stay neutral in a second Brexit referendum

Boris Johnson faced hostile questioning over the Conservative record on public services

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, says he will remain neutral in any second Brexit referendum, so he could credibly carry out the result of the vote and unite the country. Video: BBC/Reuters


Jeremy Corbyn has said he would remain neutral in a second Brexit referendum so that he could credibly implement the outcome no matter how it went.

During a BBC Question Time leaders’ special, the Labour leader was greeted with groans at first when he rehearsed his policy of negotiating a new Brexit deal which he would put to a referendum with the alternative of remaining in the EU. “My role, and the role of our government, will be to ensure that that referendum is held in a fair atmosphere and we will abide by the result of it,” he said.

“And I will adopt, as prime minister if I am at the time, a neutral stance so that I can credibly carry out the results of that to bring our communities and country together, rather than continuing an endless debate about the EU and Brexit. This will be a trade deal with Europe or remaining in the EU - that will be the choice we put before the British people within six months.”

  Until now, the Labour leader has refused to say how he would campaign in a second referendum, suggesting that the party would adopt a common position at a special conference. 

  Mr Corbyn ruled out a second referendum on Scottish independence during the first two years of a Labour government but Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon predicted that he would change his mind if he needed the support of the Scottish National Party (SNP). She said the price of her party’s support for a minority Labour government would be an independence referendum in 2020.

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  “I do believe that if the parliamentary arithmetic enables this then Jeremy Corbyn is not going to turn his back on an opportunity for a UK Labour government just because he is determined to block the right of the Scottish people to choose their own future,” she said.

Conservative record

  Four party leaders faced the Question Time audience for 30 minutes each. Boris Johnson faced hostile questioning over the Conservative record on public services and his own record of offensive statements during his career as a journalist. 

  He repeatedly sought to shift the focus onto his record as London mayor and his determination to deliver Brexit by the end of next January.

  “We won’t get this economy moving again, it’s true, until we get Brexit done,” he said.  

“At the moment that is hanging over us, it is paralysing Parliament. People voted, three and a half years ago, for their will to be respected. Every other party you’ve had on tonight is trying to frustrate that outcome.”

  Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson faced relentless questioning about her record as a minister in coalition with the Conservatives and that government’s austerity policies. A number of audience members criticised her party’s commitment to cancel Brexit without a referendum by revoking the article 50 notification of Britain’s intention to leave the EU.

  “Is revoking Article 50 confirming to 17.4 million people that you think we’re stupid and didn’t know what we were voting for?” one questioner asked.

  Ms Swinson said she did not believe Leave voters were stupid but that the Liberal Democrats wanted to be clear about their opposition to Brexit.


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