Labour Split As Diane Abbott Confirms She Will Back Remain

Rachel Wearmouth

Diane Abbott has said she will campaign for remain in a second Brexit referendum, confirming Labour’s shadow cabinet is deeply split on the issue. 

The shadow home secretary told the BBC on Tuesday that she and John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor who will also back the UK staying within the bloc, have been “speaking as individuals” in supporting EU membership and not for all of Jeremy Corbyn’s top team.

The Labour leader has not yet said how his party will campaign but during a speech in Corby on Monday, he refused to rule out “Labour Brexit deal” negotiated with the EU by him. 

Abbott, who would also be joined in supporting remain by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, said her boss would take an official position and not “stay on the sidelines”.  

Labour supports a second referendum with remain and a “credible leave option” on the ballot paper. 

During the interview, Corbyn ally Abbott hit out at Boris Johnson’s plan to end freedom of movement on October 31 in the event of no-deal, saying it would “make Windrush look like a blip”. 

But she also unleashed confusion around Labour’s own position on freedom of movement post-Brexit, saying only that immigration from the EU “would fall”. post-Brexit 

Johnson’s plan would “create chaos”, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s going to be very problematic for business, but it’s going to be very difficult for EU nationals.

“There are currently three million here altogether, a million have registered for settled status, there’s no possibility of two million registering between now and the 31st October, and then those EU nationals that were here but haven’t registered for settled status will be in the exact same position as the Windrush people.

“There will be people that came here perfectly legally, but will not have the paperwork to prove that and will have all sorts of problems with employers and the NHS and so on.”

She added: “The way Boris is doing it is heading to a catastrophe (which) will make Windrush look like a minor blip.”

Abbott said Labour would guarantee a “longer and more considered transitional process”. She said Labour’s manifesto stated that when the UK left the single market freedom of movement falls, but said it was “the way that you do it” and that there was a need for a “practical process”.

She added: “The process that Boris is suggesting is not a practical process and will cause harm to people, it will cause harm actually to British nationals in the EU.”

Abbott’s interview came as Stuart Rose, the Marks and Spencer’s boss who led the official Remain campaign in 2016, said he was not in favour of a second poll on the UK’s EU membership. 

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