Jeremy Corbyn’s close aides will accept no-deal Brexit and 'don’t give a toss' about Labour members' views, says Margaret Beckett

'They just are determined to make sure we don't do anything to impede Britain leaving, if necessary with no deal'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
@Rob_Merrick
Wednesday 26 June 2019 12:28
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Jeremy Corbyn is off the fence on Brexit and backing a second referendum

Jeremy Corbyn’s close aides will accept a no-deal Brexit and “don’t give a toss” about Labour members’ support for a fresh referendum, a party heavyweight says.

In a stinging attack, Margaret Beckett condemned “the leader's office” for the paralysis in the shadow cabinet, which again failed to agree a shift to fully back a Final Say public vote.

Labour MPs are furious about what one called the “muddle and confusion”, which they blame for putting the UK at greater risk of a Boris Johnson government crashing out of the EU in October.

Deputy leader Tom Watson is due to address a meeting of Remain-supporting Labour MPs on Wednesday evening to discuss next steps towards securing a policy change.

Dame Margaret, a former foreign secretary and temporary Labour leader, argued the “stumbling block” was not Mr Corbyn himself, but “the leader's office”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Dame Margaret said: “I'm beginning to think that some of them do actually want Britain to leave the EU no matter what.

“They don't give a toss about what the British people now want or what Labour members think is in the country's interests.

“They just are determined to make sure we don't do anything to impede Britain leaving, if necessary with no deal.”

Asked who she meant, Dame Margaret added: “I think there are people very close to him, with great influence with him, who are and have been from the beginning passionately opposed [to EU membership].

“He wants to keep the party together as much as possible and present a united front on the issue.”

Some have referred to “the four Ms” in Mr Corbyn’s team, all known opponents of a fresh Brexit referendum and some of whom have a long antipathy to the EU.

They are Seamus Milne, his director of communications, Karie Murphy, his chief of staff, Andrew Murray, his political adviser, and Len McCluskey, the head of the powerful Unite trade union.

At Tuesday’s shadow cabinet, Mr Corbyn refused to budge on his stance that “any deal” to be “put to a public vote", which could mean a general election or second referendum.

Responding to Dame Margaret's remarks, a Labour source did not directly address her allegations regarding Mr Corbyn's aides, but said: "Jeremy is trying to bring the whole movement together around a common position on this deeply polarising issue. No-one should pretend there are any easy answers."

Frontbench supporters of another referendum are desperate for Mr Corbyn to start campaigning for it – and to guarantee Labour would back Remain if it took place.

They were alarmed, last week, when the leader said any referendum ballot paper should contain “real choices for both Leave and Remain voters”.

He also floated the option of copying Harold Wilson’s approach, during the 1975 referendum, when the then-leader took no active position, allowing both wings of his party to fight it out.

At a fractious shadow cabinet meeting, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, is reported to have said: “This whole situation is like a slow-moving car crash.”

And Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, repeatedly said a decision needed to be taken straight away, telling Mr Corbyn: “This is about leadership.”

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