Brexit news latest: Jeremy Corbyn doesn't 'suspect' there will be chance to back second referendum

Bonnie Christian
Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn says reports on backing a second vote are 'highly speculative': REUTERS

Jeremy Corbyn has said he does not “suspect” Saturday will present a chance to get a confirmatory referendum through Parliament, despite earlier reports MPs were being "whipped to back a second vote”.

Speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he had secured a Brexit deal with the EU, the Labour leader described the reports as “highly speculative," adding the deal was "worse than Theresa May's".

Earlier on Thursday, The Sun's Kate Ferguson tweeted: "CONFIRMED: Labour MPs have been told they are being whipped to back a second referendum on super Saturday."

She later said: "Labour HQ just been in touch to insist that no whipping arrangements have been put in place yet. But Labour MPs certainly under the impression that if a second ref vote is possible on Saturday, they will be told to vote for it."

The PM's spokesman has confirmed Mr Johnson plans to hold a meaningful vote on Saturday should MPs on Thursday approve proposals for Parliament to sit on the weekend.

The meaningful vote will see both the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration voted on by MPs, she said.

Mr Corbyn’s comments come after shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said it would be "pragmatic" and "sensible" for the party to back a second vote to be added to any deal proposed by Mr Johnson.

The spectre of a confirmatory vote has loomed large over Westminster since the referendum result in 2016, with calls made to put the issue of Britain's departure from the bloc back to the people.

After the new deal was announced, Mr Corbyn said: “From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected.

“These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers’ rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by US private corporations.

“This sell-out deal won’t bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote.”

Asked if he would back a second referendum on Saturday, he told reporters: “It won’t come up on Saturday I suspect.”

He described reports that Labour could back such a vote as “high level speculation on a hypothetical question”.

On the deal, he said: “This is a day where the Prime Minister seems to have made a deal with the European Union which doesn’t give us the complete freedom of movement between Britain and Ireland because it creates a customs union border down the Irish Sea.

“As it stands we cannot support this deal.

“Also it is unclear whether it has the support of his allies in the DUP, or indeed many of his allies on his own backbenches.”

Labour MP Hilary Benn said earlier on Thursday he would vote in favour of the PM's deal in Parliament on Saturday if an amendment was made promising a new referendum.

He said the offer of a "confirmatory referendum" would be a good compromise for the government to come to.

"We cannot continue to push this down the road and therefore the offer of a confirmatory referendum is in the middle," he said.

Mr Benn, who introduced the Act of Parliament designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, said he would campaign to remain in the EU in the event of another referendum.

Asked what she would want to happen after a deal is passed in the Commons, Ms Chapman told the BBC: "The expectation would be... should a deal be tabled on Saturday, and we don't know if that's going to happen, but if it is, I am as sure as you can be that there will be an amendment tabled that would want to see a referendum attached to the deal. I would expect us to support that.

"I would rather have a general election but we are not in control on this.

"So should that opportunity come on Saturday, to have that referendum on a deal - the deal that we don't know yet is going to be there - the pragmatic, sensible thing for the Labour party to do, given we've been asking for this, would be to take that opportunity."