JEREMY Corbyn and senior colleagues have sought to resist grassroots pressure for the Labour conference to face a straight vote on whether to back a second Brexit referendum, which would include the option of Britain staying in the EU.
Party sources suggested the likely outcome of deliberations on having a vote at the end of a debate on Brexit tomorrow would be a “fudge,” which would stress the party’s clear preference for another general election, should Theresa May’s final plan on Britain’s EU withdrawal fail to get the support of MPs later this year.
Any move by the Labour leadership to directly back the so-called People’s Vote – the supporters of which say it should include the option of staying in the EU – would be a reversal of policy, which is simply to keep it on the table.
It would also be a landmark decision in the Brexit process as it would align Labour not only with the People’s Vote campaign itself but also the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Corbyn said he was “bound by the democracy of our party” but also noted: “Let’s see what comes out of conference.”
His deputy Tom Watson also made clear if party members voted to back a People’s Vote, he would support the move.
“Jeremy and I were elected in 2015 to give the Labour Party back to its members. So, if the people’s party decide they want the people to have a final say on the deal, we have to respect the view of our members and we will go out and argue for it,” he said.
Last night, around 100 Labour delegates were engaged in intense discussions behind closed doors deciding on the key issue of the wording of the Brexit motion to be debated and voted upon.
Earlier, the Labour leader, while he made clear he would support the will of the party if its members decided to back a People’s Vote, stressed he personally believed a general election would be a better way to resolve the political crisis over the nature of the UK’s departure from the EU.
And Len McCluskey, the Unite leader, warned that any second vote on Brexit should not be asking if the public wanted to stay in the EU as proposed by those supporting a People’s Vote.
“We have already had a People’s Vote; they voted to come out of the EU,” declared Mr McCluskey.
At a fringe event last night, he warned: “We have to be careful about how we play with our democracy.”
Highlighting the tensions at the top of the party, Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, admitted to having “reservations” about backing another vote because, she argued, the Conservative Government “might be able to skew it in particular directions to secure the result they wanted”.
The Labour leadership, which has always said it respected the 2016 referendum result, is fearful that any open support for a second EU vote, which included the option of reversing that decision, would alienate a swathe of Labour voters, who backed Brexit.
The position of the leadership has been made difficult after a poll found 86 per cent of Labour members thought voters should have the final say on the outcome of Brexit negotiations and 90 per cent said they would now vote to remain in the EU.
Yesterday in Liverpool, thousands of people, including MPs, MEPs, trade union leaders and activists marched through the city and attended a rally, calling for a People’s Vote.
As he addressed the gathering Labour MP David Lammy said: “Are you listening Jeremy Corbyn?”
Highlighting how people from across the UK were present, the Tottenham MP said: “They are saying squarely to the leadership of the Labour Party: ‘Listen to us, hear us, give us a People’s Vote.’
“When we have that People’s Vote let us ensure that the option to remain in the EU is on the ballot paper,” he declared.
A crowd waving EU and other flags chanted “b*****ks to Brexit” and “it’s not a done deal” as they walked from St George’s Hall in the city centre to the rally at Pier Head, close to where the conference is taking place.
Manuel Cortes, the General Secretary of the TSSA transport union, also backed calls for Labour to support a second referendum on Brexit.
“The terms of Brexit should be put to the British people,” he declared, adding: “People voted to leave the European Union but that doesn’t mean buying a pig in the poke or giving the Prime Minister a blank cheque. Whatever she negotiates she needs to bring back to the British people.”
Last night at a rally at the World Transformed Festival, running alongside the conference, Mr Corbyn said the rich were on “borrowed time” as he took aim at their tax breaks and offshore havens.
After receiving a rapturous reception, he told the audience the “poorest and most vulnerable” had been forced to pay the price for the 2008 financial crash.
The Labour leader said that winning an election was “not going to be easy” but hailed the power of “popular movements coming together”.
Stressing how challenging neoliberal economics was “fundamental to what we believe in,” Mr Corbyn added: “Austerity has been meted out on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.
“They are the ones who paid the price of the banking crisis of 2008, all the time the very richest in our society have had tax breaks, giveaways and tax havens.
“I tell you what: they are on borrowed time because a Labour government is coming.”
Source : HeraldScotland