Brexit: Corbyn suggests he will resist pressure to endorse Remain in second referendum

Senior shadow cabinet members have called for change to Brexit stance at party conference in Brighton

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Sunday 22 September 2019 11:20
Corbyn denies resignation rumours and insists he would serve full term as prime minister

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has signalled he will resist pressure to commit his party to backing Remain in any future Brexit referendum.

And he suggested that Labour’s MPs could even back a Brexit deal negotiated by prime minister Boris Johnson with Brussels.

Dozens of motions tabled by constituency parties at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton call for the party to commit to Remain – a position backed by senior shadow cabinet ministers Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer at a rally on Saturday. In an open challenge to the leader's stance, Ms Thrornberry asked: "It we believe in internationalism and socialism - why on earth would we back Brexit?"

But Mr Corbyn tabled a rival statement to the party’s ruling National Executive Committee saying that, while the party backed a public vote and would offer the options of a credible Brexit deal or Remain to voters, a decision on how it would campaign would be made at a special conference after the election.

On BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, he made clear that he does not want the party to decide whether it would campaign for or against the deal which it would itself negotiate with Brussels until after negotiations are complete.

“Let’s see what we get,” he said. “And we’ll put that final decision to British people and make that decision at that time.”

Asked whether he personally thought the UK would be better off inside or outside the EU, the Labour leader said: “It depends on the agreement you have with the European Union.”

He added: “We have consistently put forward what I believe to be a credible option, which is what we call the five pillars – the Customs Union, the trade relationship, protection of consumer, environmental and workers’ rights, and of course, the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.

“We have discussed those several times with (EU Brexit negotiator) Michel Barnier and others in the European Union and through the Socialist bloc in the European Union and heads of other governments as well.

“I recognise the majority of Labour Party supporters and members support Remain and supported Remain but a significant minority voted the other way…

“We will put both views to the British people and say ‘This is the best deal we could get, this is the Remain – and hopefully Reform – option. These are the choices before you.’ That is what we will put forward.”

Mr Corbyn was also challenged over whether Labour MPs could back a deal secured by Mr Johnson ahead of the 31 October deadline for Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn

He replied: “It absolutely depends what the deal is. I’ve no idea what deal he wants to bring back.

“But all my instincts are that Boris Johnson actually wants a no-deal exit from the European Union, which is why has refused consistently to confirm that he will abide by what’s called the EU (Number 6) Act, which requires him to apply for an extension in the event of a no-deal looming up at the end of October.”

With around 30 Labour MPs said to be considering backing a Johnson deal in order to bring the Brexit uncertainty to an end, Mr Corbyn indicated he would not offer his MPs a free vote on the issue.

“I would hope we could vote together as a party on this,” he said.

Speaking with an EU flag draped around her shoulders at Saturday's rally, Ms Thornberry said: "Whatever terms are agreed by which we leave the European Union, by whatever government, no matter what it says, we must make sure that there's a second referendum, we must make sure that Remain is on the ballot paper, we must make sure that Labour campaigns for Remain - and not just that, but that we lead the campaign to Remain.

Related video: Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to deliver the decisions made by the British people

"We believe in internationalism. We believe in socialism. And if we believe in internationalism and socialism - why on earth would we back Brexit?...We all say no, no, no to Brexit."

Sir Keir also argued that Labour had "got to listen" to pro-EU party members and confirmed that he would campaign for Remain in any referendum.

Speaking at his first People's Vote rally, the influential shadow Brexit secretary said he was now "utterly convinced" that a referendum was the only solution to the Brexit crisis.

"When that time comes, I will campaign for Remain alongside millions of other people in this country, because it's not just a technical question of whether you want to be in or out of the EU, it's about what sort of country we want to be," Sir Keir told a crowd of an estimated 5,000 people.

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