Politics

Labour Brexit policy confirmed as party backs Remain in a second referendum

Labour's Brexit policy took a seismic step today as the party agreed to back a second referendum – AND campaign for Remain if it happens.

Jeremy Corbyn bowed to pressure and confirmed there should be a second referendum on any Brexit deal, no matter what.

He added labour will fight to STAY in the EU in two circumstances – if there's a referendum on a Tory Brexit deal, or on a No Deal Brexit .

In an e-mail to all members as weeks of tense talks closed, the party leader wrote: "Whoever becomes the new Prime Minister should have the confidence to put their deal, or No Deal, back to the people in a public vote.

"In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either No Deal or a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs."

Today's shift comes after months of furious pressure from MPs and members who want to cancel Brexit.

It was signed off this morning by the shadow cabinet after unions – including arch-ally Unite boss Len McCluskey – finally united around a policy last night.

But there's a crucial catch – Mr Corbyn did not promise to campaign for Remain if Labour wins a general election.

Scroll down for Jeremy Corbyn's full e-mail to members

That means Labour could still go into a snap election this autumn with a manifesto that promises to negotiate a better Brexit deal with the EU.

Under Labour's plans, that deal would still be put to a second referendum.

But in those circumstances it's not decided if Labour would campaign for its own Brexit deal, or campaign for Remain.

Instead that paradox will only be thrashed out in a 'Clause V' meeting, which brings together scores of party officials and members to agree Labour's manifesto.

Today Mr Corbyn stuck by his "sensible alternative" of a Brexit deal with the EU, including a customs union and close alignment with the single market.

He wrote: "Labour set out a compromise plan to try to bring the country together based around a customs union, a strong single market relationship and protection of environmental regulations and rights at work.

"We continue to believe this is a sensible alternative that could bring the country together."

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake snapped: "Labour are still a party of Brexit.

"It is clear it is still his intention to negotiate a damaging Brexit deal if he gets the keys to No10."

The Labour leader has been under intense pressure to clarify the party’s Brexit position amid fears it is losing core support.

His key ally John McDonnell said at the weekend that Labour “needs to move now” to firm up its policy. 

Mr McDonnell previously described Labour's position as like watching a "slow-motion car crash".

The Shadow Chancellor joined a flank of top Labour figures pushing for a softer stance on Brexit, including Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer.

Deputy Leader Tom Watson  – the most vocal backer of a second referendum and Remain – said last night: "Remain is who we are. Our values are remain, our hearts are remain.

"Today is a step in the right direction but our members and supporters are clear that any kind of brexit gives us less than we have now and Labour should not support it."

Today's decision was hailed by Labour Remain campaigners.

Miriam Mirwitch, Young Labour Chair, said: "The leadership’s change in position is incredibly important in the fight to prevent the next Prime Minister imposing their will on the country without a mandate.

"This vital shift shows that Labour is a party centred around democracy that has listened to what it’s members have wanted for some time: a People’s Vote in which Labour campaigns to remain."

But the shift is likely to dismay Labour MPs in Leave-backing heartlands who fear the party will shed support.

Kate Hoey, a Brexiteer Labour MP who is standing down at the next election, said the shift was "utterly stupid. End of Labour in our heartland seats".

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