Give Bri­tain a new ref­er­en­dum on Brexit, says Sadiq Khan

‘Peo­ple need chance to re­ject EU deal’ Mayor’s call puts pres­sure on Cor­byn

The Observer - - Front Page -

Toby Helm Po­lit­i­cal Editor The mayor of Lon­don to­day is­sues a dra­matic call for an­other ref­er­en­dum on EU membership, in­sist­ing that the peo­ple must be given the chance to re­ject a Brexit deal that will be bad for the econ­omy, jobs and the NHS.

Writ­ing in the Ob­server, Sadiq Khan says that, with so lit­tle time left to ne­go­ti­ate, there are now only two pos­si­ble out­comes: a bad deal for the UK or “no deal” at all, which will be even worse. “They are both in­cred­i­bly risky and I don’t be­lieve Theresa May has the man­date to gamble so fla­grantly with the Bri­tish econ­omy and peo­ple’s liveli­hoods,” he writes.

Khan says that back­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum was never some­thing he ex­pected to have to do. But so ab­ject has been the gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance, and so great is the threat to liv­ing stan­dards and jobs, he says, that he sees no al­ter­na­tive than to give peo­ple a chance to stay in the EU.

“This means a pub­lic vote on any Brexit deal ob­tained by the gov­ern­ment, or a vote on a ‘no-deal’ Brexit if one is not se­cured, along­side the op­tion of stay­ing in the EU,” he writes. “Peo­ple didn’t vote to leave the EU to make them­selves poorer, to watch their busi­nesses suf­fer, to have NHS wards un­der­staffed, to see the po­lice prepar­ing for civil un­rest or for our na­tional se­cu­rity to be put at risk.”

The in­ter­ven­tion from one of Labour’s most pow­er­ful politi­cians will put yet more pres­sure on the party leader Jeremy Cor­byn to throw his sup­port be­hind an­other ref­er­en­dum at Labour’s con­fer­ence, which opens in Liver­pool next week­end.

More than 100 anti-Brexit mo­tions, and mo­tions back­ing an­other ref­er­en­dum, or peo­ple’s vote, have been submitted by con­stituency par­ties – be­lieved to be a record for any sin­gle is­sue in the party’s re­cent history.

A large num­ber of the mo­tions are from the left of the party, and call for a com­mit­ment to a peo­ple’s vote to

be in­serted into Labour’s next gen­eral elec­tion man­i­festo.

Sam Tarry, na­tional po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cer of the TSSA union, who used to work for Cor­byn, said the left of the Labour party was unit­ing be­hind de­mands for an­other vote: “The sheer weight of anti-Brexit mo­tions go­ing to con­fer­ence is un­like any­thing I have ever seen. The trade union move­ment has moved quickly to­wards an anti-Tory Brexit po­si­tion this sum­mer. There is this feel­ing that we, the so­cial­ist left, sim­ply can­not stand by and watch while work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties are sac­ri­ficed at the al­tar of Tory dogma.”

Un­til now Cor­byn and the shadow chan­cel­lor, John McDon­nell, have said they would pre­fer the pub­lic to be given a say on Brexit in a fresh gen­eral elec­tion, adding that, if one does not hap­pen soon, the op­tion of a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum should re­main open. But left­wingers in the party now say this for­mula is not suf­fi­cient.

Alena Ivanova, a lead­ing ac­tivist for the grass­roots group Mo­men­tum in east Lon­don, said: “Tory Brexit is a fun­da­men­tal threat to the rights and pros­per­ity of work­ing-class peo­ple and the com­mu­ni­ties that Labour rep­re­sents.”

Sup­port for a new ref­er­en­dum also ap­pears to be grow­ing in Tory cir­cles. Yes­ter­day the Con­ser­va­tive MP Ge­orge Free­man, a for­mer chair of Theresa May’s pol­icy board, said on Twit­ter that pres­sure for a sec­ond vote would be­come “over­whelm­ing” should mod­er­ate Con­ser­va­tives fail to shape a sen­si­ble Brexit deal.

Last week the Bank of Eng­land gover­nor, Mark Car­ney, warned that the im­pact of a no-deal Brexit could be as cat­a­strophic as the cri­sis that crip­pled the econ­omy a decade ago.

Theresa May will travel to Salzburg in Aus­tria on Wed­nes­day in an­other at­tempt to sell her Che­quers deal on Brexit to EU lead­ers. The Euro­pean com­mis­sion pres­i­dent, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit ne­go­tia­tor, have al­ready raised se­ri­ous doubts about key el­e­ments of the plan.

Theresa May will travel to Aus­tria this week as part of her ef­forts to se­cure a deal on Brexit.

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