Jeremy Corbyn has offered no encouragement to supporters of a second EU referendum after he called for a vote of no confidence in Theresa May’s government and an immediate general election.
The Labour leader did not refer to a second referendum in his two Brexit speeches on Tuesday evening, and risked antagonising the party’s pro-remain wing, some of whom want him to back another poll by the end of the week.
In his first, longer speech at the end of the full Brexit debate, Corbyn said: “Labour believes that a general election would be the best outcome for the country if this deal is rejected tonight.”
He argued that despite differences of opinion over Brexit, membership of the European Union was not the most important issue facing the country.
“We need to keep in mind that the vast majority of people in our country don’t think of themselves as remainers or leavers,” he said. “Whether they voted leave or remain two and a half years ago, they are concerned about their future.”
One shadow cabinet member who supports a second referendum said they believed that opposition to a second referendum was hardening among Corbyn’s allies, with senior figures preparing to resist pressure to push for one.
However, Chuka Umunna, a leading campaigner for a second referendum, said Corbyn “would face increasing demands to hold a people’s vote by the end of the week”, assuming May won Wednesday’s confidence vote as expected.
An estimated 72% of party members want a second referendum, according to polling released at the turn of the year by the Economic and Social Research Council, and 89% of those surveyed think it was wrong for the UK to leave the EU. [Continue reading…]
With the ruling Conservatives so divided, Mr. Corbyn’s Labour is in a potentially powerful position. If it threw its votes behind the Tories backing Mrs. May’s agreement, or supported a second referendum, or decided to back a softer Brexit that retained much closer links with Europe — “Norway Plus,” as it’s known — that proposal would likely pass. But so far, the party has refused to commit itself to any such solutions because it, too, is split between those who want to leave the European Union and those who want to remain.
So far it has suited Mr. Corbyn, a longtime Euroskeptic, to stay on the fence, loftily opposing all of the Tories’ proposals and declaring that if only Labour were in power, it could magically achieve a better Brexit deal. He’s reluctant to back anything that the Tories propose because he calculates that doing so will implicate him in Brexit’s inevitable economic damage. He doesn’t want a second referendum because he doesn’t know which side to back.
This comfortable evasion cannot be sustained after Mrs. May’s crushing defeat on Tuesday. Labour will have to pick sides and live with the consequences. Members of Parliament and leaders in all parties will be faced with the starkest of choices: Britain’s future will be decided within the next month. [Continue reading…]
If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) January 15, 2019