Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn to face renewed pressure from Labour MPs to back second referendum

Labour leader set to defy calls to stop 'pussyfooting around' - by tabling repeat votes of no confidence

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 15 January 2019 22:46 GMT
The Independent hands in Final Say petition to Downing Street

Labour MPs will pile pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to back a second referendum on Wednesday amid reports of a new push in parliament to give the British public a Final Say on Brexit.

Up to 100 are set to meet – with some coming out in support for a fresh vote for the first time – to set out why only a new referendum can unlock the UK’s Brexit deadlock.

But early signs were not good after their leader indicated on Tuesday night that he would not immediately throw his weight behind a fresh vote, even if his bid to trigger a general election fails.

After Theresa May’s defeat on Tuesday some Labour MPs were in discussion with colleagues and their local parties before making a final decision to join colleagues backing a new vote.

While the group meeting on Wednesday were supporting Mr Corbyn in his bid to call a no confidence vote in the Conservative government, The Independent understands many want the leader to pivot to backing a new referendum afterwards.

Some reports emerged that the group were even planning on tabling their own motion for a new vote if the party failed to, though this was denied by organisers of Wednesday's meeting.

The party’s policy, agreed in September, said: “If we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

Final Say supporters leapt on the prime minister’s devastating defeat on her deal to demand no more “pussyfooting around or hesitation by Labour”, but Mr Corbyn’s spokesperson instead indicated he would consider tabling multiple votes of no confidence to topple the prime minister rather than pivot to supporting a public vote.

Asked how many times Labour would table a confidence vote before accepting a general election was not going to happen, Mr Corbyn’s spokesperson replied: “It will go on being the case that the best outcome is a general election.”

He then added: “If we can’t get a general election, then all the options will be on the table as unanimously agreed in Liverpool.”

But David Lammy, a Labour supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: “There is only one way forward – to hand the final decision back to the British public through a People’s Vote.

“This is not the time for further pussyfooting around or hesitation by Labour. Our supporters and members now need the opposition to act.

“If we cannot secure a general election, Labour should honour the next stage of our conference policy and start actively campaigning – with people of all parties and of none – to give the public the Final Say.”

Ian Murray, a Labour backer of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group, echoed the call, saying: “The prime minister should put her deal to the public in a people’s vote.

“The ballot paper should offer the option of remaining in the EU – and that’s something which Labour should get fully behind.”

And Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “It is time for Jeremy Corbyn to find his backbone, drop his plans for a Labour-led Brexit, and back our calls for a People’s Vote.”

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP first minister, said: “Legislation must be brought forward to put this issue back to the electorate in another referendum.”

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