Divided Labour at war as pressure rises for 2nd poll
Labour was split over brexit last night after Emily Thornberry contradicted her leader by demanding a second referendum on any deal.
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman said yesterday that while he had called for a public vote on Theresa May’s deal, he would not countenance one on any deal he put his name to.
The Labour leader yesterday held talks with the Prime Minister to thrash out a jointly agreed deal to put to Parliament. Mr Corbyn said he had raised the issue of a second referendum, but made clear he was not in favour of one in all circumstances.
but in an explosive intervention, his Shadow Foreign Secretary wrote to all Labour MPs demanding a ballot on whatever deal emerges. Miss Thornberry wrote: ‘any deal agreed by Parliament must be subject to a confirmatory public vote, and yes, the other option on the ballot must be remain.’
Mr Corbyn also faced pressure on a second referendum from the unions. unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘Whatever deal emerges in the coming days should be put to the country. We cannot allow the uK’s future to be dashed on the rocks of a No Deal brexit.’
The Shadow Cabinet is deeply split on the issue of a second vote.
brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer, deputy leader Tom Watson, Shadow Home Secretary Diane abbott and Miss Thornberry are strongly in favour of another ballot. but business spokes man rebecca Long-bailey, education spokesman angela rayner and party chairman Ian Lavery are against.
Mrs Long-bailey, a Corbyn ally, said she believed Labour was unlikely to support a public vote on a deal to which the party had agreed. She said: ‘If we get exactly what we want – a good strong deal – then I would struggle to find a reason to put that to a public vote.’
Labour MP Margaret beckett demanded that Mr Corbyn push for a second referendum.
‘Theresa May is putting my party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in what is potentially a very powerful position,’ she said. ‘If any new proposal is to command the support of the Labour Party – whose voters, members and MPs want the public to have the final say – if it is to secure a stable majority in Parliament and if it is to gain the confidence of the country, it cannot, must not, and will not preclude the idea that any brexit deal is put to the people.’
Former leadership candidate owen Smith said he would back a Tory/Labour deal only if it secured a second referendum. Labour MP Wes Streeting said: ‘Involving the public may be a way of healing our deeply divided country.’
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, Plaid Cymru leader Liz Saville roberts, SNP Westminster leader Ian blackford, Independent Group MP Chuka umunna and Green MP Caroline Lucas put out a statement demanding a second vote. Senior former civil servants also backed a second referendum. Lord o’Donnell,
the former Cabinet Secretary, said: ‘The way to get clarity and closure on Europe is to let the people decide on whether to go ahead with the best available Brexit deal – or decide to stay in the EU.’
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said it would take a year to legislate for a fresh public vote, adding: ‘You have got to pass the primary legislation, you have got to resolve the issues with the Electoral Commission, you have got to have the purdah period in the runup to any referendum.’