Give Britain a new referendum on Brexit, says Sadiq Khan
‘People need chance to reject EU deal’ Mayor’s call puts pressure on Corbyn
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.