Jeremy Corbyn under pressure to back public vote on Brexit deal
Jeremy Corbyn was under intense pressure from supporters of a second referendum to block any Brexit deal that came without a public vote as he confirmed he would hold talks with Theresa May this Wednesday afternoon.
“I welcome the prime minister’s offer for talks following meetings I’ve had with members across this house, and look forward to meeting her later today. And I welcome her willingness to compromise to resolve the Brexit deadlock.”
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, who is one of the more vocal advocates of a referendum in the shadow cabinet, is expected to accompany Corbyn, together with Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown.
Starmer told the House of Commons on Monday: “At this late stage it is clear that any Brexit deal agreed in this parliament will need further democratic approval.”
Backing the motion from the former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett calling for a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal, he said: “It will put a lock around any deal that the prime minister forces through at the eleventh hour, or any revised deal that comes about at this very late stage.
“It will ensure that any Tory Brexit deal is subject to a referendum lock. In other words, it upholds the principle that any such deal must be confirmed by the public if we are to proceed”.
The former Labour leadership contender Owen Smith sought to increase the pressure on Corbyn, using a question at prime minister’s questions to say he expected him to demand that the prime minister sign up to a “people’s vote”.
However, the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, hinted Labour would not demand a referendum in exchange for its support.
“If we get exactly what we want – a good strong deal – then I would struggle to find a reason to put that to a public vote,” she said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
If May cannot secure Labour’s backing for a compromise deal, she hopes to win Corbyn’s sign-up for a binding process in the Commons to decide what form of Brexit is acceptable.
The Guardian has learned that one proposal under discussion in Downing Street is to use the single transferable vote (STV), a method that would allow MPs to signal their preferences for different options.
Labour will fear that could result in the prime minister’s deal re-emerging as the least-worst option for many MPs.
Any deal that could meet the acceptance of Labour would have to include a customs union – one of the five conditions Corbyn set out in his letter to the prime minister in February. Those also included stronger protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards to be written into the non-legally binding political declaration.
The motion by the Conservative MP Ken Clarke recommending a customs union came closest to commanding a majority in Monday’s process of “indicative votes”, falling short by three votes.
Labour also called in that letter for changes to the political declaration to be enshrined in legislation.
As the prime minister meets Corbyn – and holds separate meetings with the Scottish and Welsh first ministers – backbench MPs led by Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper will be pressing ahead with plans to pass a bill aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit.
They hope to rush the bill through its remaining stages in the Commons on Wednesday, with the support of Conservative backbenchers.