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2019-06-24 20:03:38

A definitive shift in Labour’s Brexit policy has been put on hold, after Len McCluskey’s Unite union dug their heels in against moves to throw the party’s full weight behind a second referendum and a Remain vote.

Hopes that a change in position would be agreed on Tuesday at a crunch shadow cabinet meeting were dashed after the union’s intervention in talks with Jeremy Corbyn.

Senior shadow cabinet ministers including deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer will continue to press for full-throated support for a Final Say vote, but now believe they will have to wait longer for a breakthrough.

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Labour supporters of a second referendum were encouraged by Mr Corbyn’s most forthright public support yet for a public vote on any Brexit deal.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Labour leader said that Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have no “credible” plan for Brexit and “no mandate to force a disastrous hard-right Brexit on this country”.

He told MPs: Whatever Brexit plan the new Tory leader comes up with, after three long years of failure, they should have the confidence to go back to the people and let them decide the future of this country.

One shadow cabinet source noted that Mr Corbyn had brought up the referendum issue unprompted in the chamber, in response to a Theresa May statement on a different subject. He didn't have to say it, said the source. We are now firmly in the position of a referendum on any deal with Jeremy advocating it.


Mr Corbyn has been inching towards full support for a Final Say referendum since the disastrous European elections last month, in which Labour was beaten into third place behind the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats on just 14 per cent.

He has told his MPs the party is “ready to support a public vote on any deal”, either in the form of a general election or referendum, and ordered a consultation on the policy. He last week indicated he is planning a speech on the issue, which People’s Vote supporters hope will confirm a move beyond the stance agreed at last year’s conference, which prioritises an election over a referendum.

It had been hoped that consensus on a clearer Brexit policy could be reached in talks with Labour’s union backers on Monday, for final approval at Tuesday’s shadow cabinet meeting.

But while unions including the GMB, Unison and Usdaw were in broad agreement on the need for Labour to be supportive of a referendum, Unite is understood to have set its face against a change in position.


Ahead of the union meeting, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he expected white smoke at Tuesday's shadow cabinet meeting - in a reference to the Vatican signal that a new Pope has been chosen.

Speaking at an event in the City, Mr McDonnell repeated his view that it was now the “right time to go back to the people - and he confirmed that he would campaign for Remain in another referendum.

And he said:  Out of shadow cabinet tomorrow I’m hoping that a more definitive position will emerge.

Mr McDonnell warned last week that Labour's current policy looked “indecisive” and said the party needed to “make our position clear”, while Mr Watson said change was needed “swiftly, decisively and with humility”.

brexit referendum union shadow policy corbyn labour cabinet said labours unite vote

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