Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Brexit: Opposition Labour ‘backs second referendum as last option’

The party will first fight for its Brexit plan then a general election before supporting a second vote

Pro EU campaigners outside the British Labour Party's national executive committee (NEC) offices. EPA
Pro EU campaigners outside the British Labour Party's national executive committee (NEC) offices. EPA

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party will give only tentative support for a second referendum to end the Brexit impasse, UK media reported on Tuesday.

At a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to decide the party’s policy going into the European Parliament elections, a party source said their position was "fully in line with Labour's existing policy".

The party will first seek to change the Brexit deal agreed by Theresa May’s government, then failing that seek a general election. If a general election does not succeed, the party will then back a second referendum.

Labour’s pro-European deputy leader Tom Watson had hoped the party would back a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal at the meeting of senior officials.

Many Labour members and MPs back a second referendum but the party’s socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn has been reluctant to give his support to a people’s vote.

Having expressed Eurosceptic views himself, Mr Corbyn also has to contend the fact that a number of marginal constituencies Labour won at the last general election backed leave in the 2016 referendum.

Responding to the reports, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said the decision of the NEC meant the party would have to back a second referendum in the end.

“1. The Government won’t agree to an “alternative Brexit” & Labour MPs won’t vote for one that isn’t conditional on a #FinalSay public vote, so it won’t happen 2. There won’t be an election cos Tory MPs won’t vote for one. 3. #peoplesvote only thing left. Bingo!” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Britain’s prime minister indicated that cross party Brexit talks were near an end amid reports that the government were looking to conclude by the middle of next week.

Having failed to get her withdrawal deal through parliament three times, Theresa May began negotiating with Labour earlier this month to try to find a solution to the Brexit impasse.

British media said the prime minister wanted to establish next week whether talks with Labour were likely to lead to any success.

Downing Street described talks on Monday with Labour as “serious and constructive”.

"Further talks will now be scheduled in order to bring the process toward a conclusion," Mrs May’s spokesman said.

Labour has previously criticised the prime minister for sticking to her “red lines”, most notably on leaving a trade bloc with the EU.

But Mrs May has argued that by staying in the customs union, Britain will be unable to strike trade deals.

Updated: April 30, 2019 08:52 PM

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