Britain’s Labour Party is moving to support a second referendum on Brexit unless the government calls for snap elections, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC on September 23.
“If we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a new public vote,” said Labour’s statement, which highlighted that the policy commitment was the product of negotiations between shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and trade union leaders.
Labour Party divisions
The Labour Party has its own divisions over Brexit, as many of its own voters in the north of England backed the 2016 vote to leave the EU. The Labour Leave initiative estimates that up to five million Labour voters support Brexit.
Unlike the Conservatives, Labour favours a Customs Union and potential membership in the Single Market. There is a strong current within the Labour Party, however, that believes in the possibility of a “left Brexit” that would facilitate more state intervention into the economy once the UK is no longer a member of the bloc.
Following the dismissal of Theresa May’s Brexit plan, there is an increasing fear of a disorderly so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit that could see hundreds of thousands of jobs lost and the reimposition of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Limited scope for a shift in negotiations
The possibility of a radical policy shift in the negotiations between Brussels and London is increasingly narrower as the deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union is only five months away.
Labour would need time to affect a negotiating shift if they were to win snap general elections, but with less than six months to go and the parliament deeply divided, there is little hope that the current impasse over the UK’s relationship with the EU can be resolved without a second referendum.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab still hopes London can stand its ground and is ruling out a snap general election, while May insists that it is either her own proposal or no deal at all. She has also flatly rejected the idea of a new referendum on whether or not to pull out of the EU.
Raab has insisted that the window to secure a deal on the basis of the current UK proposal remains open, but has argued that Brussels will not be allowed to dictate the negotiations.
But ahead of a forthcoming Conservative Party conference this week, the pressure is mounting on May to harden her negotiating stance. The question is whether she can hold on to her post or will her backbenchers call her leadership into question and trigger either general elections or a referendum.