Signs of division among Labour ranks ahead of crucial Brexit vote

Frederick Owens
September 25, 2018

Labour's conference will vote later on Tuesday on keeping a second Brexit referendum as an option if May fails to get her Brexit plan through parliament, heaping pressure on a struggling prime minister.

Labour's policy on Brexit is significant because of the current weakness of Prime Minister Theresa May's government, which lacks a stable majority in parliament and could face defeat by MPs if and when it brings a final deal with Brussels for a vote.

The Labour leader said that winning an election is "not going to be easy" but hailed the power of "popular movements coming together".

And speaking on the fringes of the Labour conference on Sunday evening, Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, also said there should be "no second referendum on the principle" of EU membership.

Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite trade union, a powerful Labour ally, said British voters had chose to leave the EU and "for us now to enter some kind of campaign that opens up that issue again I think would be wrong".

Privately senior Labour figures believe that it will be impossible for Jeremy Corbyn to carry all of his party with him, with one MP predicting that up to 30 MPs could defy the whip and vote with the government.

Should Labour judge May's plans to have negative outcome in response to the above questions, then the party is likely to vote down her Chequers plan in the commons.

Late last night local party and union delegates agreed the exact wording of the motion to be put to a vote at Labour conference on Tuesday.

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John McDonnell has said any new referendum should be on the deal.

On the eve of the conference Mr Corbyn said he would respect the will of party members if they voted in favour of another referendum.

"Certainly, there was no ruling out of anything, and no ruling out of remain as an option".

"The prime minister should report to parliament on what has happened...and then we should then measure her proposals for the relationship with the European Union against the six tests that the Labour party has put down".

"It was then agreed that if we can not get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote". They did not do this to be offered a farcical referendum on no deal or a bad deal. He has strong support among grassroots members, many of whom have joined since he was elected leader in 2015.

A debate on a second "People's vote" was called for by over 100 constituencies.

While stopping short of an absolute commitment to vote down Mrs May's plans, he will tell delegates that it is highly unlikely any deal based on her Chequers blueprint could meet Labour's tests.

He said Sunday that he would prefer a general election rather than a referendum, but added: "Let's see what comes out of conference". "It will make the 2016 referendum look like a walk in the park".

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