Labour councillors in London have written to Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, urging him to rethink the party’s stance on Brexit.
The letter, seen by The Independent, says the party should “be committed to providing the opportunity for people to change their mind”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been a dedicated Eurosceptic for in Parliament for more than 30 years, but campaigned for Remain in the referendum. He has since whipped his party’s MPs on the parliamentary vote to trigger Article 50 and has rejected calls for a second referendum.
Revealing the party’s deep division on the issue, the states that changing the party’s position would show “bravery, maturity and the principled leadership the country so desperately needs”.
Conservative peer and pro-European Lord Heseltine recently said that Brexit would do more damage to the UK than a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn.
Only five of London’s 32 boroughs voted for Brexit, where the vote was 60 per cent in favour of Remain. The letter has been signed by 70 Labour councillors from Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth, including the mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock.
“In the boroughs we represent, the reality of Brexit is bleak,” the letter states. “On the biggest issue facing our country since the Second World War, Labour should be committed to providing the opportunity for people to change their mind.
“Doing so would demonstrate bravery, maturity and the principled leadership the country so desperately needs.”
The Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has consistently called for the public to be given the option of an “exit from Brexit”, most likely via a second referendum.
This letter does not explicitly call for a second referendum, and says that the precise device through which the public might be able to change its mind remains an “open question”. It states that Brexit is already “costing the country billions” and risks the breakup of the United Kingdom.
It concludes: “The current Prime Minister is the weakest in living memory, her Cabinet the most inept for generations. Their approach to the negotiations has been an embarrassing display of arrogance, under-preparedness and bone-headed jingoism.
“But while their particular unsuitability as negotiators has been made plain, the contradictions inherent in the Brexit project itself should concern the Labour Party far more than has been the case up to now.
“We should be prepared to offer the electorate the opportunity to say whether leaving the EU is really in the best interests of the country.”
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