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Labour conference: Party ‘farcical’ cop-out over watered down Brexit referendum motion

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Jeremy Corbyn Labour conferenceLeon
Neal/Getty Images

  • The Labour party is set to say it will support another
    Brexit referendum.
  • After months of pressure from its pro-EU membership,
    Jeremy Corbyn’s party has decided to let delegates vote on a
    motion calling for a so-called People’s Vote to be party
    policy.
  • However, the motion has some big caveats.
  • Labour will only consider supporting another referendum
    if there is no Brexit deal, and no general election.
  • Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said staying in the EU
    would not be an option in a new Brexit
    referendum. 
  • Labour MP David Lammy described the motion as
    “farcical.”

 

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND — Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has been
accused of a “farcical” cop out, after refusing to commit to a
second Brexit referendumin which voters will be given the option
of remaining in the EU.

Under a motion submitted to their party conference in Liverpool,
Labour is set to support the “option” of a nationwide referendum
on the outcome of Brexit talks — but only if there is no Brexit
deal and no “immediate” general election.

And crucially any referendum would not include the option of
remaining in the EU, according to Shadow Chancellor John
McDonnell.

The motion was welcomed by some anti-Brexit groups. Eloise Todd,
CEO at anti-Brexit group Best For Britain called it “a welcome
step forward for the party and it also reflects the huge shift in
the country as more people than ever, particularly Labour voters,
want to stay in the EU.”

However, Labour’s influential pro-EU MP David Lammy described the
motion as a farce.

“Dozens of motions were submitted to #Lab18, thousands have
marched on the streets, and millions more have called for a
#PeoplesVote,” he tweeted.

“They did not do this to be offered a farcical referendum on No
Deal or a Bad Deal. It absolutely must include the right to
remain in the EU.”

The motion comes after weeks of pressure from its overwhelmingly
pro-EU membership and comes with some major caveats.

Firstly, Jeremy Corbyn’s party will only support a so-called
People’s Vote if there is no Brexit deal. Secondly, it will only
look at backing another referendum if no snap general election
takes place.

And thirdly, the motion says that even in these circumstances,
the option of a People’s Vote would remain “on the table,” and
will not necessarily become official party policy.

The motion, which 1,650 Labour delegates will decide whether to
accept or not, states: “Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit
deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would
constitute a loss of confidence in the government.”

It adds: “In these circumstances, the best outcome for the
country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the
Tories from power.

“If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all
options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a
public vote.”

Brexit backlash

Two of the party’s most senior figures have cast further doubt
over the motion, triggering a backlash from pro-EU campaigners.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told BBC radio on Monday that
any referendum backed by Labour would not include an option to
stay in the EU. “It will be on the deal itself. We will respect
the referendum,” McDonnell told Radio 4.


john mcdonnell mp labour politician
Shadow
Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell addresses delegates in
the main hall on the second day of the Labour Party conference on
September 25, 2017 in Brighton, England.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Len McCluskey, who heads Labour’s biggest financer, Unite the
union, agreed with McDonnell. He said on Sunday: “The referendum
shouldn’t be on, ‘do you want to go back in the European Union.’

“The people have already decided on that. We very rarely have
referendums in this country, the people have decided against my
wishes and my union’s wishes, but they have decided.”

Tom Brake, Brexit spokesperson for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats,
accused Labour of “aiding and abetting” the Conservative
government’s handling of Brexit.

He added: “It beggars belief that McDonnell and co are spending
so much time trying to trick and stitch up their own conference,
rather than campaigning for an exit from Brexit to protect jobs
and services in the UK.”

A YouGov poll published over the weekend found that 86% of Labour
members want the party to back another referendum.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain’s departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider’s political reporters. Join here.

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