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Thornberry urges Jeremy Corbyn to decide whether Labour is anti-Brexit

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BRIGHTON, ENGLAND — A senior colleague of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has broken ranks to call on him to declare now that the party will campaign to stay or leave the European Union in a new Brexit referendum.

Corbyn is encouraging Labour members to support a compromise position in which the opposition party would decide how it would campaign in a Brexit referendum at a special conference held after a potential snap election.

However, a series of senior party figures at the party’s conference in Brighton on Sunday urged him to immediately turn Labour into an explicitly anti-Brexit party.

Corbyn has said a Labour government would negotiate a new withdrawal deal with Brussels, and then decide whether to campaign either for going ahead with Brexit under the terms of that deal, or staying in the EU.

However, Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, told the Huff Post’s political editor Paul Waugh that her party should change its position immediately.

“We’re all here [at conference]. I don’t see why we can’t make the decision now,” she said.

“I think that this conference should thrash it out.”

Read more: Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament has driven a spike in donations to anti-Brexit campaigners

Thornberry, who joined anti-Brexit protests in Brighton over the weekend, insisted that Labour was a “Remain party” despite its reluctance to adopt a clear pro-Remain position.

“The vast majority of Labour voters want to Remain. The vast majority of Labour members want to Remain. We are a Remain party,” she said on Sunday.

She warned that failing to back Remain in a general election would drive pro-EU voters to the Liberal Democrats and Greens, and potentially cost cost Labour up to 30 per cent of the vote which it won at the 2017 general election.

“The polling is there and makes the case that we will lose many, many more people who voted Remain than those who voted Leave,” the MP for Islington South and Finsbury said.

“My concern, obviously, is that the next general election could be a Brexit election and just be about one issue.”

“And we have to be very careful that it doesn’t come to that, but it does seem to me that one way in which we will be able to help ourselves is by having a clear line on Brexit, so that we can also talk about everything else, so that when Jeremy goes onto television he’s not constantly asked, what’s your policy on Brexit.”

Thornberry rules out pro-Remain pacts at the next general election

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

The Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on Sunday piled further pressure on Corbyn to make the party clearly pro-Remain.

Khan urged party members to “not accept a fudge” on Brexit and told an event hosted by The New Statesman that Corbyn should whip all Labour members of Parliament to back a Remain position.

While clearly backing a new referendum and staying in the EU, Thornberry shot down the suggestion that Labour should work with other pro-Remain opposition parties at the next general election.

Candidates in other pro-Remain parties are in talks about forming electoral pacts in certain seats at the next election.

Figures involved in those talks are urging Labour MPs who oppose Brexit to consider to participate.

However, When asked by Business Insider whether Labour should consider allowing its candidates to form electoral pacts with candidates from other parties, the shadow Foreign Secretary said: “No, no I don’t. I don’t believe in pacts.”

She added: “If we win and [are in] a minority, and we need to rely on Scot Nats [the Scottish National Party] and the Lib Dems, we won’t enter a formal deal with them. They can support us, or they don’t.”

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