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17th Mar 2019

Labour to back amendment calling for second Brexit referendum

Labour will endorse an amendment calling for a public vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal when the PM puts her deal to the house for a third time

Reuben Pinder

Theresa May will put her deal to the house for a third time this week

Labour are expected to back an amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit deal that calls for a public confirmation vote. It has not been made clear whether Remain would be an option on the ballot, or whether it would simply be a binary choice between May’s deal or no deal.

The proposal has been drawn up by backbenchers and will be put to the house of commons when the prime minister attempts to get her deal through the house for the third time, which she is expected to do  this week before heading to an EU summit on Thursday.

This decision to whip the party in favour of the amendment calling for a second vote follows the threat of more resignations over the party’s indecision around their position on Brexit after several MPs quit the party to stand with the ‘Independent Group’.

Labour have come under huge criticism for their vague and ambiguous position on Brexit since the referendum in June 2016, with some factions in the party wanting a second referendum while leader Jeremy Corbyn has preferred to call for a General Election, claiming to be able to get a better deal than May’s, which would supposedly include a close relationship with the single market.

But now the party will whip for the Kyle-Wilson in an attempt to get May’s deal through parliament – finally – but with the stipulation that the public vote on it.

By running down the clock with regard to tabling this motion, Labour have allowed time for support to foster among the Tory benches, with this looking increasingly like the only way to get the PM’s deal through the house.

One of the amendment’s authors, Peter Kyle, told the Observer: “Having now spoken in depth with Jeremy [Corbyn], his team and John McDonnell, I’ve seen for myself how they have moved from inquisitiveness to enthusiasm. When the moment comes, I’m not anticipating any equivocation from Jeremy after such a constructive and engaging set of conversations.”

Kyle urged MPs from across the Commons to back his plan. “We’re not labouring under the assumption we’ll get a second bite of the cherry,” he said.

“I have no clear vision of what the outcome of another meaningful vote defeat would be, other than that our politics will become even less predictable, more volatile and we would lurch further to the extremes.”

“My fear is we will lurch into wildly unpredictable territory, such as a disastrous general election or Britain crashing out of the EU, with the UK seen as a basket-case country the like of which Europe has not seen for a long time.”