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Pressure mounts on Corbyn to back new Brexit referendum as London's Labour MPs back 'People's Vote'

Exclusive: In a letter published in The Independent the MPs warn a bad Brexit deal could 'tear' the fabric of London apart 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Friday 01 June 2018 19:24 BST
Can Brexit be reversed?

Jeremy Corbyn faces mounting pressure to back a new referendum on Brexit after a raft of London Labour MPs signed a letter calling for a vote on the final deal.

The open letter to The Independent signed by 18 MPs in total warns that a bad Brexit deal risks tearing the capital apart and concludes the public must vote on it themselves, a move that goes directly against Labour policy.

It comes after similar letters from Labour MPs in Wales, the Northeast and Merseyside and follows a new left-wing campaign to push the party to a more pro-EU position.

But the drive from MPs in the capital – including Chuka Umunna, Stella Creasy, Tulip Siddiq, Margaret Hodge and Wes Streeting – has particular significance because it is where thousands of members who make up Mr Corbyn’s power base are rooted.

The new letter published today sees 15 of Mr Corbyn’s MPs joining forces with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and two of his MPs to demand the new referendum.

It reads: “The terms on which we leave the EU have never been put to the public.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney: Brexit has already hit UK GDP by up to £40bn

“When the prime minister brings back her Brexit deal later this year, we will finally know what Brexit means. And a decision will have to be made as to whether we accept it or not.”

It adds: “It cannot be right that 650 MPs alone decide whether to accept the deal, without any say for Londoners or people across the country. That’s why we think it’s essential that there is a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, so that 65 million people can have their voices heard as well.”

The letter sets out the need to stop Brexit from damaging London’s status as “a cultural capital, a sporting powerhouse” and “a hub for international business, civil society and media”.

While it accepts that the 2016 referendum gave the government a mandate to negotiate a withdrawal agreement with Brussels, it says ministers do not have a mandate to “force a bad Brexit deal on our city.”

It argues that London, “represents all the most positive elements of being global, outward-looking, welcoming and tolerant. These values form part of the fabric of London. A bad Brexit deal risks tearing that fabric apart.”

Up to now Mr Corbyn has doggedly resisted the idea of a public vote on the final deal, saying that the country should “respect” the result of the referendum in June 2016.

Ten of the MPs went further and backed a call for an option in any referendum to be remaining in the EU on current terms.

Labour HQ declined to comment on Friday, but the Labour membership, which twice backed Mr Corbyn to lead the party, is believed to be largely against Brexit.

While the exact geographical breakdown of Labour’s membership is not public data, insiders say numbers are heavily weighted towards London and other urban centres.

Mr Corbyn and the most senior members of his shadow cabinet, like John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry, Barry Gardiner and Sir Keir Starmer all hold seats in the capital, which overwhelmingly backed Remain in the referendum.

Barry Gardiner shown recording of him contradicting Labour's stance on Brexit deal

It comes after 12 Welsh Labour MPs, including shadow ministerial aides Anna McMorrin and Tonia Antoniazzi, both defied the party line to sign a similar letter.

Five MPs from Labour’s heartlands in the Northeast also signed a letter published by The Independent in May calling for backing the People’s Vote campaign, as did four Merseyside Labour MPs and the city’s mayor.

Last month Janet Daby defeated rivals supported by the Corbyn-backing Momentum group and Unite to become Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the Lewisham East byelection next month, having stood on a ticket of fighting to keep the UK in the single market.

Anti-Brexit left-wingers announced they will tour Britain this summer in a campaign to build opposition to leaving the EU – calling on Mr Corbyn to back Remain and negotiate a “new settlement” with Brussels.

The internal struggle in the party could come to a head when the Commons votes on whether to keep the UK in the single market in coming weeks, with Mr Corbyn currently refusing to back the plan.

Labour’s current position is that that Britain’s EU membership must end and that the country should leave the single market and customs union to negotiate new relationships to replace them.

But the House of Lords, including more than 80 Labour peers who rebelled against Mr Corbyn’s will, passed an amendment to Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Bill that would see the UK remain inside the single market if it also now gets approved by the Commons.

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