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Jeremy Corbyn says ‘only way out of the Brexit crisis is to go back to the people’ | Politics News



Jeremy Corbyn has sought to address growing divisions within Labour by pledging his support for a second EU referendum on “any” Brexit deal – if he cannot secure a general election.

The Labour leader is under growing pressure from both party members and senior MPs to give firmer backing for a fresh public vote on Brexit, despite concerns from those MPs who represent Leave-supporting areas.

It follows last week’s EU elections, in which Mr Corbyn’s party were third behind the Brexit Party and the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats.

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Ahead of talks with Irish President Michael D Higgins and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday, Mr Corbyn claimed the Conservative Party’s leadership contest over the coming weeks “will most likely end with a small number of wildly unrepresentative right-wing Conservative activists foisting a no deal zealot on the country”.

He said: “Labour will work with anyone across party boundaries and do whatever is necessary to stop a disastrous no deal outcome, which would open the way for a frenzy of deregulation and a race to the bottom in jobs, rights and protections.

“But faced with the threat of no deal and a prime minister with no mandate, the only way out of the Brexit crisis ripping our country apart is now to go back to the people.

“Let the people decide the country’s future, either in a general election or through a public vote on any deal agreed by parliament.

“For Labour any outcome has to work for our whole country, not just one side of this deliberately inflamed divide.”

Mr Corbyn also told Irish journalists on Wednesday evening that he would be discussing Labour’s plan for a UK-EU customs union with Mr Varadkar.

As reported by the Irish Times, the Labour leader added: “The Labour Party is of the position that we should be quite prepared to put this to a public vote subsequently.”

Mr Corbyn’s comments appear to mark a shift in his position on a second EU referendum.

Prior to last week’s EU polls, Labour’s manifesto stated the party would back the “option” of a public vote, if it failed to get a Brexit deal in line with its own “alternative plan” or a general election.

Following the results of the elections, Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell claimed the party could not “hide” from its disappointing performance.

He admitted securing a general election would be difficult, in which case he would support “going back to the people in another referendum”.

Also reflecting on the results, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said, ahead of the EU elections, Labour “should have said quite simply that any deal that comes out of this government should be put to a confirmatory referendum; that Remain should be on the ballot paper; and that Labour would campaign to Remain”.

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Fellow Corbyn loyalist, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, also recently claimed Labour was “supporting a people’s vote strongly now because it’s the right thing to do”.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson attacked the party’s Brexit position before the EU elections as “a deliberate and ultimately self-defeating attempt to triangulate between different groups”.

On Wednesday, Mr Watson revealed his survey of nearly 9,000 Labour party members and supporters revealed 84% want an all-member ballot to decide the party’s Brexit policy.

He said: “As deputy leader I’ll support them to make this happen.”

Previous polls have shown overwhelming support for a second EU referendum among Labour’s membership.

Responding to Mr Corbyn’s comments, Labour MP Bridget Phillipson, who is a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a fresh public vote, said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s words show he is at last beginning to listen to what our voters and members are saying.

“But, as John McDonnell has admitted and as the Tory leadership contest increasingly makes clear, there is no immediate prospect of a general election.

“That is why it is now vital Labour follows through on its clearly stated conference policy by campaigning for the only available fair and democratic solution to the Brexit crisis – a People’s Vote that gives the public the final say.”

But, demonstrating the split within Labour over the issue of a second EU referendum, the party’s chairman Ian Lavery suggested supporters of a fresh public vote are “left-wing intellectuals” who are “sneering at ordinary people and piling on those trying to convey the feelings of hundreds of thousands of Labour voters”.

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