Key Labour fig­ures urge party to pre­pare for new Brexit poll

Back­ing for fresh ref­er­en­dum grows Cross-party MPs in peo­ple’s vote push

The Observer - - Front Page - Toby Helm, Michael Sav­age, Jes­sica El­got & Daniel Bof­fey

A pow­er­ful group in­side Jeremy Cor­byn’s shadow cabi­net is urg­ing Labour to be ready to cam­paign for a pos­si­ble sec­ond Brexit ref­er­en­dum if Theresa May’s deal is de­feated and the party can­not force a gen­eral elec­tion. The move comes amid signs that sup­port for an­other pub­lic vote is widen­ing at West­min­ster.

The shadow cabi­net al­liance push­ing Labour to pre­pare for the op­tion of a sec­ond pub­lic vote in­cludes Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, deputy leader Tom Wat­son, shadow North­ern Ire­land sec­re­tary Tony Lloyd and Richard Cor­bett, the leader of Labour MEPs in the Euro­pean par­lia­ment.

Sup­port for the idea from top Labour fig­ures comes after shadow chan­cel­lor John McDon­nell said last week that Labour could well end up back­ing an­other ref­er­en­dum, with the op­tion to Re­main in the Euro­pean Union be­ing on the bal­lot pa­per.

The Ob­server can re­veal that Starmer told a meet­ing of the shadow cabi­net last Wed­nes­day that Labour should be ready to “move quickly through the gears” to call a no-con­fi­dence vote in the govern­ment im­me­di­ately if, as ex­pected, May’s blue­print is de­feated when MPs vote on it on 11 De­cem­ber. As the no-con­fi­dence vote is un­likely to pass – mean­ing the push to trig­ger an elec­tion would fail – it was made clear at the same meet­ing that Labour should then be ready to take up the op­tion of back­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum cam­paign if there is no vi­able al­ter­na­tive. Starmer re­ceived strong sup­port from Wat­son, Lloyd, and Cor­bett, with only two shadow cabi­net mem­bers, Ian Lav­ery and Richard Bur­gon, ar­gu­ing against, ac­cord­ing to sources.

It is un­der­stood that Cor­byn, who had pre­vi­ously re­sisted the idea of a sec­ond pub­lic vote, did not op­pose the strat­egy, though he stressed the need to fo­cus on de­feat­ing May in the forth­com­ing “mean­ing­ful vote”.

The grow­ing sup­port for the idea of a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum at the top of Labour comes after uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter Sam Gy­imah re­signed on Fri­day over May’s Brexit deal and said a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum should now be con­sid­ered.

Gy­imah ar­gued that Bri­tain would be “ham­mered” in fu­ture trade talks with the EU if the deal was passed and said that putting the is­sue back to the peo­ple might be the “most sen­si­ble” way to re­solve the im­passe.

“The prime min­is­ter has al­ready taken one step in that di­rec­tion by ap­peal­ing to the coun­try to put pres­sure on MPs to vote for her deal,” he told the BBC. It is also un­der­stood that a serv­ing min­is­ter has been show­ing a pos­si­ble blue­print for a sec­ond vote to mem­bers of the cabi­net, sug­gest­ing more MPs could quit to sup­port the idea should May’s deal be de­feated.

Shadow cabi­net sources said that, while it was en­tirely right that Labour should fo­cus on de­feat­ing May’s deal and try­ing to force an elec­tion, there was wide ac­cep­tance that it was un­likely to achieve that goal, so the party would soon be un­able to ar­gue that it could ne­go­ti­ate a bet­ter deal than May. One shadow cabi­net source said: “So we have to have a pol­icy for when the no-con­fi­dence vote fails – a clear line. We should be ready to back a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.”

There is also con­cern that un­less Labour de­vises a clear line on what its pol­icy will be after Theresa May’s likely de­feat, and after it fails to force an elec­tion, Cor­byn could be ex­posed in a TV de­bate that is be­ing planned for Sun­day, two days before the Com­mons’ mean­ing­ful vote.

To­day, a cross-party group of MPs, in­clud­ing sev­eral Tories, has is­sued a state­ment urg­ing party lead­ers and MPs to rally be­hind a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum as the only way to break the par­lia­men­tary im­passe. The group calls on MPs to back a peo­ple’s vote amend­ment to the mean­ing­ful vote to build fur­ther sup­port across par­lia­ment. This, it says, is “the only guar­an­teed op­por­tu­nity – writ­ten in statute – for the Com­mons to back a peo­ple’s vote.”

Mean­while, a new YouGov poll pub­lished to­day shows sup­port for stay­ing in the EU at the high­est level recorded by the company since the 2016 ref­er­en­dum. The poll of 1,655 peo­ple con­ducted last week shows re­main­ing in the EU now has a 10-point lead over leav­ing when peo­ple are asked whether or not they want to pro­ceed with Brexit.

In the sur­vey for the Peo­ple’s Vote cam­paign, sup­port for stay­ing is now at 55% com­pared with 45% for leav­ing the EU once “don’t knows are ex­cluded”. Sep­a­rate sur­veys con­ducted in the four neigh­bour­ing Lon­don seats rep­re­sented by Cor­byn, shadow for­eign sec­re­tary Emily Thorn­berry, shadow home sec­re­tary Diane Ab­bott and Starmer show over­whelm­ing sup­port, and sug­gest all four would lose votes to other par­ties if Labour even­tu­ally backed a Brexit deal.

While Theresa May, who was at­tend­ing the G20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina yes­ter­day, in­sists she will win over suf­fi­cient MPs to get her Brexit deal through Par­lia­ment, ev­i­dence emerged last night that Con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists over­whelm­ingly op­pose the deal. A sur­vey of Tory mem­bers by Con­ser­va­tiveHome found 72% of Tory mem­bers are against it while only 25% back it.

G20 Press Of­fice/AFP

Theresa May speaks on the sec­ond day of the G20 sum­mit in Buenos Aires yes­ter­day.

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