Labour Deputy Leader urges second referendum pledge

The UK Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, has again urged his party to promise a “confirmatory” referendum on any Brexit deal in its manifesto for European elections. 

In a tweet, Watson called on Labour members to lobby their representatives on the National Executive Committee (NEC), ahead of a crucial meeting this week where the manifesto will be decided. 

However, the Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner, said that a referendum on any Brexit deal would be a change in party policy, which was to only support a referendum to “stop a No Deal or a bad Tory Brexit.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “The national executive will decide on Tuesday what will be in the European election manifesto and we will reflect the decisions made (at) last year’s Labour Party conference – which were for a customs union, market access and rights protection.

"We would prefer to have a general election, but failing that if we get that agreement we are prepared to consider putting it to a confirmatory vote.” 

However, the are reports that the NEC has been unable to agree a new policy, and will simply endorse the existing position that a second referendum should remain “on the table,” with Corbyn reportedly determined to keep open the option of agreeing a Brexit deal with the Government that would not be put to a referendum.

Elsewhere, Labour is redrafting its leaflets for the European elections after the initial copies did not refer to a referendum. The redrafted leaflets will now refer to the party’s preparations for a general election, with a referendum if necessary to avoid “a bad Tory deal.” 

This comes amid reports that a number of Labour activists will refuse to campaign for the European elections if the party does not back a referendum.

Meanwhile, the Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said yesterday that there had been “movement” in some areas of cross-party Brexit talks, adding, “We’ve had fantastic discussions on workers’ rights, for example, and the government seems quite amenable to moving towards what I’ve been asking for.” However, she claimed that “as yet we haven’t seen the Government move on any of their red lines.”

  Long-Bailey also declined to give explicit support to a public vote on any Brexit deal, describing it as one of the potential “options” if Labour’s demands for a Brexit deal were not met.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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