Labour faces tremendous pressure to back second EU referendum – Lammy

Jeremy Corbyn has been urged to throw his weight behind a second Brexit referendum, to unite the Labour movement and prevent an “economic catastrophe”.

Senior Labour MP David Lammy said there was growing momentum for a so-called People’s Vote on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

He said the party leadership will come under “tremendous” pressure at the party’s conference later this month to back a second vote.

Labour has so far not ruled out a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, but senior figures including Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have argued that they would rather have a general election than a plebiscite.

Despite Brexit being the major political issue at Westminster, Labour has spent recent months mired in internal disputes over how to respond to claims of anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn will come under pressure to change Labour’s Brexit position, David Lammy said (Jane Barlow/PA)

Former minister Mr Lammy suggested that publicly supporting a referendum could help the party move on from its divisions.

He told the Press Association: “I think the irony of the European position is that is the big policy issue of our times.

“I actually think it could unite the party as there is a growing momentum.

“In the end no political party can expect to be the party of government if it is a party that is totally absorbed in internal issues and is divided.

“It has to be a united party, we need to get back to policy and the issue, the pressing issue in our country, is are we going to have a no-deal or are we going to have an extremely poor deal and the economic catastrophe that flows from that.

“That is the critical issue and it really does need Labour now to understand that it can lead on this issue of a People’s Vote.”

Tottenham MP Mr Lammy said he believed that despite the clock ticking on Brexit – with just 200 days until the UK’s exit from the EU – there was both the parliamentary time and cross-party support available to secure a fresh referendum.

“Of course Parliament has the space and the time to go back to the people, to draft legislation, to devise the questions to give the British people a decision whether to stay in the European Union or they accept the deal that is on the table,” he said.

“The EU itself has indicated that we actually would be able to have more time beyond March to do this. The Irish PM very recently indicated that is something that could happen.

“Of course our European partners would like to give the British people the opportunity to make that decisive decision if that is something we requested.”

Brexit graphic
(PA Graphics)

Labour would be able to line up with the smaller parties and Tory rebels to get referendum legislation through Parliament, he said.

“The Greens, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, it’s clear that they would back a People’s Vote.

“The Labour Party – it is also clear that the unions within the Labour Party are absolutely in a place where they are coming round to a People’s Vote and indicating that they believe that that is in the best interests of workers.

“There is a growing momentum across the Labour movement, there will be tremendous pressure I think at party conference.

“It is clear that when you look at the polling that has been done of Labour members there has been a big swing towards having that vote and, interestingly, there are a range of northern MPs saying ‘look, my constituents actually want to see us look again quite closely at what that deal
is’.

“So I think there is all to play for but we are running out of time and that’s why I have been absolutely clear with the Labour leadership that the party of Keir Hardie cannot vote for the economic catastrophe that is about to set upon us.”