Independent Group’s Chris Leslie says lack of Final Say on Brexit contributed to rebel Labour MP resignations

Nottingham East MP accuses Jeremy Corbyn and his advisers of ‘betrayal’ over lack of support for fresh referendum

Tom Barnes
Monday 18 February 2019 13:41 GMT
Chris Leslie blames lack of Final Say for breakaway MPs' resignations

One of the seven MPs breaking away from the Labour Party has in part blamed Jeremy Corbyn’s unwillingness to campaign for a Final Say on Brexit for the group’s resignations.

In a scathing attack on the party, Chris Leslie accused Mr Corbyn and his advisers of overseeing a “betrayal” over Brexit, which amounted to a “fundamental violation of Labour’s traditional values”.

Speaking at a press conference called on Monday to announce the split, the Nottingham East MP claimed he could no longer support a party “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left”.

“The evidence of Labour’s betrayal on Europe is now visible for all to see: offering to enable this government’s Brexit, constantly holding back from allowing the public a Final Say,” Mr Leslie said.

“Conference policy has been cast aside, no guaranteed participation in the single market any more, no exact same benefits, no movement towards a people’s vote.

“Choosing to stand by as our constituents’ lives and future opportunities are hurt by Brexit is a fundamental violation of Labour’s traditional values.”

Mr Leslie is one of seven former Labour MPs – alongside Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey – to resign from the party over its handling of both Brexit and allegations of anitsemitism.

The move marks the most significant split in the party since a breakaway group of centrist MPs formed the Social Democratic Party in 1981.

Members of the group, who will now sit in the Commons as independent MPs, had grown increasingly vocal in their criticism of Labour’s Brexit policy in recent weeks.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly refused to throw his weight behind the campaign for a Final Say referendum, only going as far as to say his party is keeping every option on the table.

His preferred option to potentially break the current impasse in parliament over Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, a general election, has not been forthcoming.

Labour adopted a motion at its annual conference last year, which stated the party should back a second referendum if it was unable to secure a snap election.

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In a statement released following the resignations, the Labour leader said he was “disappointed” by the group’s decision to step away from the party.

“I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945,” Mr Corbyn said.

“Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change.”

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