After Labour fell to third place in the European elections, Jeremy Corbyn has written to Labour MPs heeding calls for more unambiguous support for a people’s vote on whatever Brexit looks like.
The Labour party lost half its MEPs, left with only 10, behind the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats, having lost votes to more unapologetically pro-remain parties – which between them polled more votes than the hard Brexiteers of Brexit Party and UKIP.
The Labour Party leader wrote to MPs to insist that though a general election was still the party’s preferred solution to the Brexit impasse – as agreed at the last party conference – any Brexit deal “has to be put to a public vote.”
Corbyn wrote: “It is clear that the deadlock in parliament can now only be broken by the issue going back to the people through a general election or a public vote. We are ready to support a public vote on any deal.”
The official Labour Party position decided at its conference to back a Brexit that fulfilled the Brexit promises, or put the matter back to the nation via a general election, or failing that a second referendum failed to enthuse enough Labour voters this week, with Labour polling only marginally more than the Green Party which also advocates a second referendum.
The election results showed a clear majority for parties advocating the British public being given the final say on Brexit.
Many wished the Labour leader had made a final say for the British public a clearer campaigning point earlier.
A ComRes poll last week put Labour clear favourites to take the most votes in the European Elections if only the party had campaigned as pro-Remain and promised a second referendum, which would have put it eight points ahead of the Brexit party and 27 points ahead of the Conservatives.
Instead the remain vote was split between Green, LibDem, SNP, Labour and Plaid Cymru and the new Change UK party, which allowed the Brexit Party to gain the most seats, despite a majority of seats for MEPs advocating a People’s Vote.
Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a people’s vote on Brexit, follows interventions by senior Labour figures calling for Labour to campaign in earnest for a second referendum in which the party promises to campaign to remain in the EU now it has become clear what a mess Brexit has become.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer insisted a public vote was the “only way to break the Brexit impasse” with a “credible leave option and remain.“
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “I fear we will have no deal and we must be clear it will be a disaster for the country so we must have a second referendum.”
“Now we face prospect of Brexiteer extremist as Tory leader and threat of no deal, we must unite our party and country by taking issue back to people in a public vote,” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell insisted too.
John McDonnell later added: “So people are absolutely clear what I am saying. Of course I want a general election. But I realise how difficult this is to secure. I will do anything I can to block no deal Brexit. So yes if, as likely GE not possible, then I support going back to the people in another referendum.”
After Labour voted fell behind Plaid Cymru in Wales for the first time in any vote, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader and first minister, vowed the Welsh labour Party back a second referendum and the option to remain in the EU.
In Scotland, Labour lost all its MEPs with the SNP campaigning unambiguously to remain in the EU.
“Can’t hide from hit we took last night. Bringing people together when there’s such a divide was never going to be easy,” John McDonnell said on Twitter.
“Now we face prospect of Brexiteer extremist as Tory leader and threat of no deal, we must unite our party and country by taking issue back to people in a public vote.”