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05th Mar 2019

Labour will demand its MPs vote for a second referendum on Brexit

Marc Mayo

John McDonnell says plans are still being formulated for the exact nature of the upcoming parliamentary vote

The Labour Party will enforce a three-line whip to compel their MPs to vote for a second Brexit referendum when Theresa May brings her withdrawal agreement back to parliament.

With just weeks to go before the deadline on Article 50 negotiations, the opposition frontbench has made a U-turn to advocate a fresh public vote. However, the party is split on what is the best way to solve the Brexit quagmire and John McDonnell wants to quell a rebellion by ordering MPs to vote for a second referendum amendment.

“Yes,” he told a Westminster journalists’ briefing when asked if the party will enforce the whip. “That’s the discussion that’s going on.”

The amendment is set to be put forward by Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, the Labour members for Hove and Sedgefield, respectively, and McDonnell believes supporting a backbench motion will help garner cross-party support.

“We’re considering whether we put one down ourselves but it’s more likely and better for us to back a backbench amendment because then it doesn’t alienate some other [MPs] coming across,” he added.

However, the Kyle-Wilson plan is currently to advocate a new vote on the basis of backing May’s deal, which the shadow chancellor believes is unpalatable for the Labour frontbench and can be altered.

“We’re trying to ensure our members don’t have to vote for Theresa May’s deal to get to that stage [of voting for a referendum],” said McDonnell.

“There doesn’t necessarily have to be a reference to Theresa May’s deal. We don’t want an explicit reference to Theresa May’s deal.”