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Labour WILL back second Brexit referendum in effort to stop no-deal

Jeremy Corbyn’s party has said he wants to avoid ‘a damaging Tory Brexit.’

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Image: PA Images

Updated Feb 25th 2019, 6:17 PM

THE UK LABOUR party is preparing to back an amendment for a second referendum on Brexit as part of efforts to avoid an no-deal scenario. 

In recent weeks, party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that his priority has been to avoid a no-deal Brexit and Labour said this evening that it will back a public vote to avoid it.

A series of House of Commons votes on Brexit are scheduled this week and Corbyn has said the party will be “putting forward or supporting” an amendment on a public vote.

Corbyn plans to tell MPs about the plan in a parliamentary party meeting this evening in which he’ll accusing British Prime Minister Theresa May of trying to “run down the clock” and force MPs to choose between her deal and no-deal.

“We will also be backing the Cooper-Letwin amendment to rule out a no deal outcome. 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,” Corbyn will say. 

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. 

The development comes after a day in which May sought to downplay any suggestion that a Brexit extension could be sought.  

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with the Prime Minister earlier this morning.

“It’s evident to me that no one wants the UK to crash out of the EU without a deal,” Varadkar said on Twitter, repeating a sentiment given before.

That’s a lose-lose. Focus remains on ratifying the withdrawal agreement.

In a press statement given after her meeting with Varadkar, May said that an extension to Article 50 “isn’t addressing the issues”, adding that “any delay is a delay”.

An extension to Article 50, a delay in this process, doesn’t deliver a decision in parliament, it doesn’t deliver a deal. What it does is precisely what the word delay says…

“We have it within our grasp,” she said, adding that there’s been “a real sense that we can achieve that deal on 29 March, and that is where all my energies are going to be focused.”

The leaders have gathered in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh this weekend; May has held bilateral meetings with a number of EU leaders, hours after announcing that she would postpone the UK parliament’s vote on her divisive Brexit deal. 

May has already held talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte this morning.

May met with European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday.

EU-Arab League Summit in Egypt Source: DPA/PA Images

She and her team will return to Brussels tomorrow, and will address the House of Commons on her talks with the EU on the Brexit process. On Wednesday, MPs will have the chance to debate their own ideas for the way forward through this prolonged Brexit stalemate.

Yesterday, May confirmed reports that a vote on her Withdrawal Agreement would be postponed. The House of Commons was due to hold a vote this Wednesday, 27 February – but that has now been pushed back to Tuesday 12 March, just over two weeks before the UK leaves the European Union on 29 March. 

EU-League of Arab States Summit Theresa May meeting with Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte. Source: Stefan Rousseau

Commentators are speculating that leaving the vote until the last minute could pressure MPs to vote for her deal, which suffered a historic House of Commons defeat in January.

There are also reports that assurances to the Irish backstop, which MPs have blamed for the rejection of May’s deal, will be given by the EU and Ireland in an attempt to avoid a dreaded no-deal Brexit.

Reacting to May’s decision to postpone the vote, Varadkar said:

“This is a situation the UK has created for itself so we are not playing chicken, we are not playing poker, we are just standing by our position which has been solid from day one.”

- with reporting from Rónán Duffy and AFP 

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