Jeremy Corbyn is further away from accepting a second EU referendum than Theresa May, opposition party leaders have claimed after failing to secure the Labour leader’s support for a so-called People’s Vote.
The Westminster leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens emerged from a meeting with Mr Corbyn saying he was not prepared to back a second EU referendum unless it was Labour’s preferred Brexit deal, and not Theresa May’s, that was put to the people.
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said the Labour leader’s backing for a People’s Vote was “based on the assumption that the government’s deal is not on the ballot paper - and since that’s the only deal that’s ever been negotiated, that means in practice they’re not supporting it.
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“He was very clear, he’s looking for a new form of Brexit, and that’s not where we are.”
With nine days to go until a possible no-deal Brexit, Mr Cable said a second EU referendum was “not necessarily” dead, but added: “I’ve always argued that the best route for a People’s Vote was when the government realises that the government realises that is has a better chance of getting it through in a public vote in the country than it does in parliament.
“Waiting for Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going to get us there.”
Asked if Mrs May was closer to supporting a second EU referendum that the Labour leader, Mr Cable said: “Improbable as it seems, I do think that is the case. It is a crazy situation, but unfortunately that’s where we are.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas struck a more upbeat tone, saying Mr Corbyn was “more positive than we might have expected around the issue of going to a People’s Vote… I don’t get the sense he’s miles away from it.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said talks to convince Mr Corbyn would continue, but warned the Labour leader would “pay a price” if he didn’t give his backing to a referendum
“It’s disappointing that so far, he’s not in that position,” Mr Blackford said. “I did ask him if he would join us in the People’s Vote rally on Saturday. He declined to do so.
“I’d simply say to Jeremy, and to the Labour party: there’s no such thing as a good Brexit.
“If you want to represent your constituents and protect the jobs of your constituents, while respecting the result of the referendum in 2016, we have to have that conversation with everyone.
“Jeremy has got to wake up.”
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A Labour Party spokesman described the talks as “constructive”.
“Should there not be a majority in parliament for May's deal or a public vote, Corbyn called on the other parties to engage constructively to find a parliamentary majority for a close economic relationship with the EU that can work for the whole country,” the spokesman said.
“The party leaders discussed efforts to ensure May's deal would be put to a public vote if she is able to force it through parliament with threats and phony bribes.”