Brexit u-turn: Corbyn backs second referendum

Christine Davies from Milton Keynes

Inevitably Corbyn has fallen just a bit short of saying he supports a new referendum where Remain will be an option.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, gives a speech at the EEF National Manufacturing conference, in London, Britain, February 19, 2019.

And he will say Labour is "committed to also putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country".

Without Labour's backing, no such referendum would be possible, and the clock is ticking toward the March 29 deadline when Brexit is supposed to take place.

In a move that could change the Brexit debate in Britain, the Labour Party said it would back a second public vote if the House of Commons reject its alternative withdrawal plan later this week - as is widely expected.

The party will also support a bid by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper to give parliament the legal power to force Prime Minister Theresa May to seek an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period beyond the exit date now set down in law - March 29.

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Corbyn said he would work to force May to adopt his party's approach to Brexit, which includes a permanent customs union with the EU (a major sticking point between the pro- and anti-Brexit sides), a close alignment with the single market and unambiguous agreements on future security arrangements. One possibility is that Labour will back the so called Kyle/Wilson compromise, an amendment being promoted by two Labour backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson. Corbyn is more anti-EU than his party, the membership of which backs a second referendum. On the other hand, without promising that Labour would allow May's Brexit deal through parliament, there is no realistic prospect of attracting Conservative support.

Reaction from lawmakers in the meeting on Monday was split. It is thought that refusing to support this amendment would lead to more Labour defections to The Independent Group, deepening the party split.

"But if we can't get that, if we can't get a deal, if we can't get our red lines met, then [party policy] is that we go for a people's vote", he said.

"I still have deep reservations about the idea of having another referendum".

Plaid Cymru's Brexit spokesperson, Hywel Williams said: "Jeremy Corbyn is being dragged kicking and screaming towards the only sensible solution - a People's Vote".

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