Bid to change Labour's policy on second Brexit referendum

Campaigners calling for a second referendum will seek to challenge Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit policy by attempting to secure a motion on the issue at the Labour Party conference, according to a leaked memo.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire

People’s Vote want MPs and activists to submit a motion calling for a referendum on the final deal the government reaches with the European Union before Britain leaves in March. It is not Labour Party policy to support a second referendum on the deal.

But the leaked memo states the cross-party group is not trying to undermine Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the party over the issue.

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The memo says: “Whatever views people have about the overall direction of the Labour Party, this campaign is not about Jeremy Corbyn and we must not, will not, use it to damage or undermine the party’s leadership or attack them personally.” However, the draft contemporary resolution for Labour’s conference next month states the party can give the public a “clear opportunity to participate in critical decisions”.

It notes: “Conference believes that if the government’s proposed deal is unsatisfactory then the people should be allowed to express their view in a public vote on Brexit.

“The Labour movement can then unite behind Jeremy Corbyn’s determination to fight the Tories on a hard Brexit.”

The statements come with Mr Corbyn under intense pressure as Labour leader over his handling of anti-semitism claims. The memo, written by Tom Baldwin who is the campaign group’s director of communication, praises “real signs of movement” from the Labour front bench on a second referendum.

Mr Baldwin said: “It’s vital that people recognise that this is such a huge issue for our country, for the next generation, for our vital public services, for our jobs, that it’s not something that should be used for any other objective.

“Our campaign, contains people from Momentum and people who’ve just resigned from Theresa May’s Cabinet.

“It’s a broad, broad, broad campaign and people who use Brexit as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn are not serving our purposes.”

Mr Baldwin said the memo and resolution aimed to move Labour to a “sensible position which reflects the position of the vast majority of Labour members and the vast majority of Labour voters”. Those opposing a second referendum say the result of the June 2016 poll must be respected and a new vote would undermine the democratic process.

Barry Gardiner, the shadow trade secretary, has warned holding a second vote could lead to civil disobedience.

Scotland’s constitutional relations secretary Mike Russell will tell business leaders in Paris today the Scottish Government will seek to strengthen ties with the European Union despite Brexit.

He will emphasise the Scottish Government’s opposition to a “deeply damaging” Brexit and its support for remaining in the EU single market and customs union.

Mr Russell is expected to say: “In recent years you have been our largest European inward investor. French businesses employ more than 20,000 people in Scotland.

“And 10,000 French citizens currently live in Scotland, contributing hugely to our economy and culture and our society.”