Labour conference: Delegates block meaningful vote on Brexit

Aubrey Allegretti, Political Reporter in Brighton

Jeremy Corbyn has avoided a potentially embarrassing row over Brexit, after delegates at the Labour conference blocked a meaningful vote on the issue.

Members and trade union officials picked eight other "contemporary" subjects on the party's "priorities" ballot to vote on instead.

Both groups got to pick four topics, with trade unions backing the Grenfell fire, public sector pay, workers' rights and growth and investment.

Local Labour parties put Brexit fifth - behind the NHS, housing, social care and rail services.

An email from left-wing campaign group Momentum seen by Sky News urged its supporters not to back Brexit in the composite motion ballot, calling it a "potentially time-consuming cul-de-sac".

Votes will still be allowed on the UK-EU divorce, but none will have any power to bind party policy, as internal party division over Brexit deepens.

One furious party source described it as "a cynical move reminiscent of the worst of the New Labour years".

"It's democracy when it suits the leadership, rule by decree when it doesn't," they added.

While Labour MP Heidi Alexander said she was "gobsmacked" that "the biggest single issue in the country" had not been picked for discussion.

Liberal Democrat shadow Brexit secretary Tom Brake also warned that the move proved Labour "do not stand for anyone on Europe".

"Corbyn's anti-EU wing of the Labour party have won the day," he said.

"Following pressure from his Momentum pressure group, the party have ducked away from debating the biggest issue currently facing the country at their conference.

"Labour have again shown themselves to be neither here nor there, unable to come up with a coherent policy for fear of their own internal politics spilling out into the public."

A Momentum spokesman told Sky News: "Brexit is set to be debated and voted on at conference on Monday so it is not true to say it is being ignored at conference.

"Housing, the NHS, social care and our railways are crucially important issues for the country which deserve to be discussed at conference, so for that reason we supported them in the priorities ballot.

"Clearly there are a range of other critical issues which deserve to be discussed but we know both the public and Labour members care a lot about these issues, and it is vital Labour sets out a genuinely progressive vision on them in order to win the next election, which is why we supported them in the ballot."

Jeremy Corbyn's office was also approached for comment but did not reply by the time this story went live.

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