Corbyn says Labour could still back Brexit referendum
Labour could still back a people’s vote, leader Jeremy Corbyn said as he urged Prime Minister Theresa May to accept his demands for a Brexit deal.
The leftist leader said the option of a third referendum remained on the table.
Corbyn faced a backlash from pro-EU Labour MPs after setting out his conditions for accepting a Brexit agreement in a letter to May.
The embattled premier has agreed to hold fresh talks with Corbyn over his plans for a “soft” Brexit that would keep Britain tied to the single market after Brexit and locked in a customs union with Brussels.
In a letter to Corbyn, May did not rule out Corbyn’s demand for a “permanent” customs union but did say it would create a “negotiating challenge”.
She also agreed to discuss Corbyn’s call for “close alignment” with the single market, as well as committing to asking MPs if it wished to follow EU regulations on workers’ rights and environmental standards.
But May’s reply showed little appetite for a U-turn which would risk splitting her divided party by ruling out the scope for Britain to sign trade deals with non-EU members.
“I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own deal,” May wrote.
She says membership of a customs union would prevent the UK from having an independent trade policy, which is seen as the main economic benefit of leaving the EU.
The letter alarmed Tory Brexit extremists who feared May was abandoning her hardline approach with Brussels.
Corbyn has stuck to his demand to call for a general election if May could not get her withdrawal agreement through parliament.
The Labour leader accused May of an “utterly cynical” and “reckless” attempt to kill time on the March 29 Brexit deadline.
He said in a speech in Coventry that Labour’s plan “could win the support of parliament and bring the country together” but May had instead “chosen the path of division”.
“If she is unable to adopt a sensible deal because it would split the Tories, then the answer is quite simple: there must be a general election,” Corbyn said, although he has never explained how this will address the Brexit crisis.
Corbyn said that without an election “we will keep all options on the table – as agreed in our conference motion – including the option of a public vote”.
A people’s vote could end the Brexit crisis.