Brexit: Fresh Labour referendum bid as Jeremy Corbyn comes under pressure

Andrew Woodcock

Labour MPs are to make a fresh bid to force a second referendum on any Brexit deal secured by Boris Johnson.

Peter Kyle and Philip Wilson believe that their amendment – which won 280 votes and was defeated by a majority of just 12 in April – could be passed by MPs at a second attempt, now that the prime minister has lost his majority in the Commons and Labour is unequivocally committed to a people’s vote on any Brexit outcome.

The move was announced as Mr Corbyn came under increasing pressure to commit Labour to campaigning for Remain in any referendum.

Some 81 motions calling for a pro-Remain stance have been submitted by constituency Labour parties to the annual conference starting in Brighton on Saturday, while none back Leave.

Leading figures from all wings of the party will join a Trust the People march and rally in the Sussex city to demand a people’s vote as conference gets under way.

Meanwhile, a new poll suggests that Mr Corbyn has failed to win public confidence with his plan to go into an election on a promise to negotiate a “credible” Brexit deal and then put it to a referendum without saying which side Labour will support.

Some 77 per cent of those questioned by Ipsos Mori said that the Labour leader was doing a bad job at handling Brexit. And even among Labour supporters, 48 per cent said he was performing badly on EU withdrawal policy, against 34 per cent who said he was doing well.

The monthly political monitor poll recorded the lowest net satisfaction ratings for Mr Corbyn of any opposition leader since the survey began in 1977. Some 76 per cent said they were dissatisfied with the Labour leader’s performance against 16 per cent who were satisfied – a net rating of minus-60.

The Labour leadership is expected to try to water down pro-Remain demands in a “compositing” meeting on Sunday which will decide the wording of the Brexit motion to be put to delegates later in the week. Some 90 per cent of motions submitted call for Labour to back Remain in any public vote, while a majority support the revocation of Article 50 if necessary to prevent no deal.

But Corbyn loyalist Richard Burgon backed the current position as “correct and democratic”, telling The Independent it “makes sense” for Labour MPs to be allowed to campaign on either side in an eventual referendum.

Mr Burgon said that a “credible” jobs-first deal could be negotiated by Labour “in a matter of weeks” after taking office, and that he would not personally decide which side to campaign on until that was in place. And he said it would be “credible” for Mr Corbyn to stand aside from the fray rather than backing one side in a second public vote.

“As a democrat who got into politics to try to bring people together, I think it’s right that Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister would – no ifs, no buts – implement the decision of that referendum vote, whether it’s to leave with the deal that Labour negotiates or to remain,” he said.

Peter Kyle, one of the MPs who tabled the original amendment (Rex)

Leading shadow cabinet members Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Dawn Butler will be among those taking part in the Trust the People march in favour of a referendum, alongside Mr Kyle and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Ms Lucas said: “Offering everyone in the country the final say in a new referendum is the best way to heal divides over Brexit.

“The far right of the Tory party now occupying Downing Street want to impose a form of Brexit on the British people that is a million miles from what they once promised.

“And there are those who simply want to see parliament overturn the result of the last referendum.

“Either course will only deepen divisions in our country. Neither can be called democratic. The only fair way to solve this crisis and get a lasting settlement is through a people’s vote, and a programme to transform Britain so people’s very real grievances can be addressed.”

Setting out his plan for a parliamentary amendment to force Mr Johnson to put any deal to a public vote, Mr Kyle said: “No one can trust Boris Johnson to solve this Brexit crisis either with no deal or a deal.

“If he tries to force his vision for a destructive Brexit through parliament, we will seek to amend it so that it can only proceed if the people get the chance to have the final say.”

Ipsos Mori’s research director Keiran Pedley said: “Corbyn’s historically dire personal poll ratings will concern Labour supporters as the party heads into an expected general election.

“When Tony Blair and David Cameron assumed office from opposition, both had positive net satisfaction scores, while Corbyn’s currently stands at minus-60.

“However, he was able to significantly improve his personal poll ratings during the 2017 general election campaign, so perhaps he will again. Whether he can do so against the backdrop of a resurgent Lib Dems and lukewarm public support for his Brexit stance remains to be seen.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon (PA)

But Mr Burgon insisted the Labour leader would be an asset in an election which he believes will come before the end of the year.

“Once a no-deal Brexit is finally locked down as not happening, we need a general election to get Boris Johnson out by Christmas, whether that is by voting down the Queen’s Speech or a vote of no confidence,” said the shadow justice secretary.

“I believe we will come out of this conference in a better position to unify the vast majority of anti-Tory, pro-progressive change voters behind Labour. People will see a clear choice been Johnson’s hard-right Conservatives and the real change offered by Labour and Jeremy Corbyn will be a strength in that election, just as he was in 2017.

Ipso Mori questioned 1,006 British adults between 13 and 16 September

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