John McDonnell urges Brexit referendum pledge in Labour manifesto

JOE MURPHY

John McDonnell and two senior shadow cabinet ministers will tonight pressure Jeremy Corbyn to shift to an explicit pledge for a second referendum in Labour’s next election manifesto.

The shadow chancellor will appear on a pro-Remain platform with shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer.

Ms Thornberry led the charge at a rally in Boris Johnson’s constituency yesterday at which she said Labour “must and will” pledge a national vote and argued that the pledge should apply “regardless of which party” is in power.

“The Labour Party must and will campaign unequivocally to have that People’s Vote, and campaign unequivocally to Remain,” she said.

“Then no matter what deal is on the table, and regardless of which party has negotiated it, our position when it comes to a new referendum must be to remain in the European Union.” She added that Labour had always backed “an outcome which does the least harm to jobs and the economy” and therefore it was logical to stay in the EU.

The pressure comes days after Mr Corbyn ended a lengthy formal consultation by shifting to a new position that backed a referendum if the Conservative Government tries to ratify a Brexit deal or pursue a no-deal exit.

The compromise left open the question of whether a referendum would be staged on any Brexit deal agreed by a future Labour government.

A spokesman for Mr McDonnell said his speech tonight will be “in line with shadow cabinet policy”.

The shadow chancellor is reportedly frustrated that Mr Corbyn is being influenced away from an explicit pro-referendum stance by his close aides Seumas Milne and Karie Murphy.