Labour’s Brexit policy took a seismic step today as the party agreed to back a second referendum – AND campaign for Remain if it happens.
Jeremy Corbyn bowed to pressure and confirmed there should be a second referendum on any Brexit deal, no matter what.
He added labour will fight to STAY in the EU in two circumstances – if there’s a referendum on a Tory Brexit deal, or on a No Deal Brexit .
In an e-mail to all members as weeks of tense talks closed, the party leader wrote: “Whoever becomes the new Prime Minister should have the confidence to put their deal, or No Deal, back to the people in a public vote.
“In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either No Deal or a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs.”
Today’s shift comes after months of furious pressure from MPs and members who want to cancel Brexit.
It was signed off this morning by the shadow cabinet after unions – including arch-ally Unite boss Len McCluskey – finally united around a policy last night.
But there’s a crucial catch – Mr Corbyn did not promise to campaign for Remain if Labour wins a general election.
Scroll down for Jeremy Corbyn’s full e-mail to members or read an explanation of the policy here.
That means Labour could still go into a snap election this autumn with a manifesto that promises to negotiate a better Brexit deal with the EU.
Under Labour’s plans, that deal would still be put to a second referendum.
But in those circumstances it’s not decided if Labour would campaign for its own Brexit deal, or campaign for Remain.
Instead that paradox will only be thrashed out in a ‘Clause V’ meeting, which brings together scores of party officials and members to agree Labour’s manifesto.
Today Mr Corbyn stuck by his “sensible alternative” of a Brexit deal with the EU, including a customs union and close alignment with the single market.
He wrote: “Labour set out a compromise plan to try to bring the country together based around a customs union, a strong single market relationship and protection of environmental regulations and rights at work.
“We continue to believe this is a sensible alternative that could bring the country together.”
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake snapped: “Labour are still a party of Brexit.
“It is clear it is still his intention to negotiate a damaging Brexit deal if he gets the keys to No10.”
The Labour leader has been under intense pressure to clarify the party’s Brexit position amid fears it is losing core support.
His key ally John McDonnell said at the weekend that Labour “needs to move now” to firm up its policy.
Mr McDonnell previously described Labour’s position as like watching a “slow-motion car crash”.
The Shadow Chancellor joined a flank of top Labour figures pushing for a softer stance on Brexit, including Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer.
Deputy Leader Tom Watson – the most vocal backer of a second referendum and Remain – said last night: “Remain is who we are. Our values are remain, our hearts are remain.
“Today is a step in the right direction but our members and supporters are clear that any kind of brexit gives us less than we have now and Labour should not support it.”
Today’s decision was hailed by Labour Remain campaigners.
Miriam Mirwitch, Young Labour Chair, said: “The leadership’s change in position is incredibly important in the fight to prevent the next Prime Minister imposing their will on the country without a mandate.
“This vital shift shows that Labour is a party centred around democracy that has listened to what it’s members have wanted for some time: a People’s Vote in which Labour campaigns to remain.”
But the shift is likely to dismay Labour MPs in Leave-backing heartlands who fear the party will shed support.
Kate Hoey, a Brexiteer Labour MP who is standing down at the next election, said the shift was “utterly stupid. End of Labour in our heartland seats”.
Jeremy Corbyn’s e-mail to Labour members in full
I am proud to lead the Labour Party – the greatest political party and social movement in this country.
We all recognise that the issue of Brexit has been divisive in our communities and sometimes in our party too.
As democrats, Labour accepted the result of the 2016 referendum. In our 2017 manifesto, Labour also committed to oppose a No Deal Brexit and the Tories’ Brexit plans – which threatened jobs, living standards, and the open multicultural society that we as internationalists value so much.
I want to pay tribute to Keir Starmer and the shadow Brexit team for holding the Government to account during this process. That helped secure a meaningful vote on their deal – which we then defeated three times – including inflicting the largest ever defeat on any Government. And following their refusal to publish their legal advice, this Government became the first to be held in contempt of Parliament.
Labour set out a compromise plan to try to bring the country together based around a customs union, a strong single market relationship and protection of environmental regulations and rights at work. We continue to believe this is a sensible alternative that could bring the country together.
But the Prime Minister refused to compromise and was unable to deliver, so we ended cross-party talks.
Now both Tory leadership candidates are threatening a No Deal Brexit – or at best a race to the bottom and a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump: that runs down industry, opens up our NHS and other public services to yet more privatisation, and shreds environmental protections, rights at work and consumer standards.
I have spent the past few weeks consulting with the shadow cabinet, MPs, affiliated unions and the NEC. I have also had feedback from members via the National Policy Forum consultation on Brexit.
Whoever becomes the new Prime Minister should have the confidence to put their deal, or No Deal, back to the people in a public vote.
In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either No Deal or a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs.
Labour has a crucial, historic duty to safeguard jobs, rights and living standards. But no Brexit outcome alone can do that.
We need a general election. After nine years of austerity, too many people in this country cannot find decent secure well-paid work, and have to rely on public services that have been severely cut back.
Our country is ravaged by inequality and rising poverty, huge regional imbalances of investment, and the government is failing to tackle the climate emergency facing us all.
That is why we need a Labour government to end austerity and rebuild our country for the many not the few.