Is Labour’s best Brexit option ‘full remain’ or neutral in a second referendum?

Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images

There is much good sense in Polly Toynbee’s case for Jeremy Corbyn being the figurehead for opposition to a no-deal Brexit at the forthcoming general election, (If Johnson quits MPs should back Corbyn to avoid no deal, 10 September), but it has two significant flaws. First, the election campaign will have to be in opposition to the whole Brexit deal, with a commitment to a second vote, rather than on the narrower, though crucial, opposition to a no-deal Brexit. As yet Corbyn is far from being clear enough on the broader question. Second, all the negotiations on presenting a single anti-Brexit candidate in key seats are predicated on maximising the pro second ballot vote. On this the evidence is that a Corbyn-led “unity” ticket will inhibit a large tranche of voters from voting for it. It may even put off some Conservative rebels from standing on the ticket.

Toynbee can point to some straws in the wind showing a lessening of the lethal nature of the Corbyn brand, but two years on from a general election, with a Conservative government in dire straits and disarray, the main opposition party should be 20 points ahead in the opinion polls, not 10 points behind. Toynbee’s persuasive skills should be directed at persuading Corbyn to suspend his Labour leadership for the brief period involved, in favour of an interim leader who can unite the anti-Brexit forces and attract the maximum vote. There are senior Labour politicians with experience of government and of leadership who can fulfil this role. Normal political service can be resumed as soon as the immediate objective is gained.
Michael Meadowcroft

• Polly Toynbee blames “unthinking, knee-jerk Corbynphobia” on the Sun, the Mail, the Sunday Times whose “scare stories … stoke the terror” of Marxism, Stalinism etc. But far more insidious has been the constant undermining of the Labour leader by columnists like Toynbee and the willingness of all media, with the exception of the Morning Star, to provide a platform for the Corbyn knockers, including Labour MPs who have never accepted our members’ choice of leader. The obsession with getting rid of Corbyn has allowed the real threat from the hard right to flourish, as many of us predicted.
Karen Barratt
Winchester, Hampshire

• Dr Simon Brodbeck warns against running a general election as a proxy single-issue referendum (Letters, 10 September). Indeed, this was effectively what Theresa May did in 2017, and it rebounded on her. I seem to remember political agents on the doorsteps saying that austerity was an issue that came up often and presumably accounted for Labour coming up late on the rails and denying the government its necessary majority, perhaps along with annoyance at having yet another election so soon after the last one.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent

• Jerry Hodgkinson is correct in describing Labour’s policy on Brexit as incoherent (Letters, 9 September). Your report of Jeremy Corbyn’s meeting with leaders of the key Labour-affiliated unions helps to emphasise this: “The policy is clear – if it is a bad Tory deal, Labour will formally back remain. If Labour is in government it will negotiate the best possible deal it can and let the people decide …” (Back remain to attract lost Labour voters, says Watson, 11 September). If I vote for Labour in a forthcoming general election, am I voting for a remain party or a Brexit party? It’s a simple question.

I am a Labour party member. If supporters like me, who want to see the UK remain in Europe, vote Labour in the general election, will our votes be taken by some Labour leaders as supporting a renegotiation of the Brexit deal? I cannot risk my vote being used in this way. There should be no deal at all because there should be no Brexit. I will therefore vote for a party that is unambiguously in favour of remain. I hope that will be Labour, but that will be up to Corbyn.
Shaun Soper
Midhurst, West Sussex

• There is a strong case for Labour to back “full remain” in its election manifesto. But if Labour is unable to take that step, and keeps to its current policy of “renegotiate plus people’s vote”, it must clarify the position a Labour government would take in a second referendum.

If it refuses to say in advance which side it will back, voters will be unable to work out whether to support Labour in the general election. If it says it will support the deal it intends to agree with Brussels, this will make Labour a leave party, and alienate its majority remain supporters. But it cannot support the remain option either, because this would involve it negotiating in bad faith with the EU – concluding an agreement that it was intending to oppose in a public vote.

The only credible position is for Labour to say in its manifesto that it will stay neutral as a government during the referendum campaign. The point of negotiating with the EU is to create an acceptable leave option, which it will then put to a people’s vote against a remain option that is likewise acceptable. Labour members, including MPs and those in the cabinet, would then be free to campaign on either side in the referendum, while the government itself stayed above the fray. The aim must be to provide a sensible choice, step back, and let the people decide.
Alan Carling
Keighley, West Yorkshire

• Re Jerry Hodgkinson’s letter, where on earth is the contradiction between attempting to achieve the best possible deal outside the EU (for the 52%) and, finding it inevitably inferior to our current deal within the EU, campaigning for remain in a second referendum? In the first we decided between two abstract propositions. In the second we’d be choosing between two clearly spelled-out situations. Labour’s considered response shows an active concern for democracy entirely unknown to the Tories.
Keran James

• Join the debate – email

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit

• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition