Labour to back moves for second Brexit referendum

Jeremy Corbyn to tell his MPs that party will table or support amendment for public vote

Labour has announced it will back moves for a second EU referendum in the coming weeks, in order to prevent what Jeremy Corbyn called “a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country”.

Corbyn will also table an amendment to the government’s Brexit motion setting out the five demands he spelled out to Theresa May as conditions of Labour’s backing for a Brexit deal, including a permanent customs union.

He will tell a meeting of Labour MPs on Monday evening that the party will back an amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper and the Tory Oliver Letwin that would legislate for a delay to the UK’s exit date in order to avoid no deal.

In a statement, the party said it would “put forward or support an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit”.

Corbyn will tell MPs the party “cannot and will not accept” May running down the clock towards no deal. He will say EU officials and leaders in Brussels and Madrid found Labour’s alternative Brexit plan “serious and credible” and it could win support across the House of Commons.

“One way or another, we will do everything in our power to prevent no deal and oppose a damaging Tory Brexit based on Theresa May’s overwhelmingly rejected deal,” he said.

“That’s why, in line with our conference policy, we are committed to also putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.”

It is unclear whether the Labour frontbench is prepared to table its own amendment for a second referendum or whether it will back one tabled by other parties or backbenchers.

MPs in the People’s Vote campaign have previously been cautious about laying an amendment for a second referendum unless they can be certain that it could win enough support – though the Lib Dems have previously laid their own amendments.

Significant numbers of Labour MPs are likely to abstain or vote against any plans for a second referendum, including a number of frontbenchers.

Labour is still deliberating over whether to back a proposed amendment before the so-called “meaningful vote” on May’s deal, which May has promised will be held by 12 March. The amendment by the Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson would approve May’s deal subject to a fresh referendum, though senior Labour officials are thought to be uneasy about backing any amendment that endorses the Tory Brexit deal.

Instead, the party could potentially offer support to a differently worded amendment that spells out a Labour version of the exit deal, which could then be put to a referendum.

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