'Significant step forward' as Jeremy Corbyn calls for new EU referendum

Jeremy Corbyn has been under pressure to change Labour's position on Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn has been under pressure to change Labour's position on Brexit
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Labour supporters of a second EU referendum have hailed a "significant and very welcome step forward" after Jeremy Corbyn called on the government to stage a public vote on any Brexit deal, and confirmed his party would campaign to Remain.

Following a meeting of the shadow cabinet at Westminster, the Labour leader said that whoever wins the Conservative leadership contest should have the confidence to put any new deal they negotiate with Brussels - or no-deal - to the public.

Labour MP and chairman of the Brexit Select Committee Hilary Benn hailed the "very significant" announcement, which he said will be "widely welcomed" within the party.

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And Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray said: “This is a significant and very welcome step forward. It’s taken a huge effort to get to this point, and I pay tribute to party members who have helped secure this policy position.

“A confirmatory vote with a campaign to remain in the EU is now official Labour Party policy, in line with the Scottish Labour Party. We must now get out there and tell voters that the only way to stop Brexit and remain in the EU permanently is to vote Labour.”

The move follows weeks of wrangling within the party over its position on Brexit - backing a second referendum only in certain specific circumstances - which was widely blamed for its dismal showing in the European elections.

In a letter to party members, Mr Corbyn said Labour would campaign for Remain "against either no-deal or a Tory deal", but did not explain what Labour would do if it won a general election.

The move comes a day after leaders of some of the party's largest affiliated trade unions moved to back a second referendum.

Among those present was Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, a key ally of Mr Corbyn, who has previously resisted calls for a confirmatory vote.

In the letter, Mr Corbyn wrote: "Now both Tory leadership candidates are threatening a no-deal Brexit - or at best a race to the bottom and a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump.

"I have spent the past few weeks consulting with the shadow cabinet, MPs, affiliated unions and the NEC (national executive committee). I have also had feedback from members via the National Policy Forum consultation on Brexit.

"Whoever becomes the new prime minister should have the confidence to put their deal, or no-deal, back to the people in a public vote.

"In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either no-deal or a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs."

The party was not entirely united behind the announcement, with Brexit-backing Labour MP John Mann saying the move will lead to the loss of Leave-voting voters and be a gift to the Tory leadership front-runner.

"The one person who will be smiling at today's announcement is Boris Johnson. I think it gives him quite a boost when he wins the Tory leadership," he told World At One.

"And I think it makes it slightly more likely that he'll be tempted to call a Brexit election."

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have said that, if they win the race for No 10, they would seek to renegotiate the terms of Britain's withdrawal, but would leave without a deal if they failed to do so.

READ MORE: Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn takes step towards backing second vote
The Liberal Democrats pointed to Labour's lack of clarity on what the party would do if it won control of Parliament in an election.

Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "Jeremy Corbyn can pretend all he likes that the Labour Party are finally moving towards backing the Liberal Democrat policy of a People's Vote.

"But it is clear it is still his intention to negotiate a damaging Brexit deal if he gets the keys to Number 10."