In an emergency meeting this afternoon, Labour’s ruling body agreed to include current party policy on Brexit in the European manifesto.
The result means MEP candidates will be officially standing on a commitment to back Labour’s alternative Brexit plan and only support another public vote if the opposition cannot secure either changes to the current deal or a general election.
It is a victory for Jeremy Corbyn and the party leadership, which faced attempts – led by deputy leader and national executive committee (NEC) member Tom Watson – to shift policy towards a clear public vote pledge that would apply to any deal.
Commenting on the outcome, a Labour spokesperson said: “Labour’s European elections manifesto was agreed at the NEC today and it will be published soon.
“Labour is the only party which represents both people who supported Leave and Remain. We are working to bring the country together after the chaos and crisis created by the Tories.”
A Labour source confirmed: “The NEC agreed the manifesto which will be fully in line with Labour’s existing policy; to support Labour’s alternative plan, and if we can’t get the necessary changes to the government’s deal, or a general election, to back the option of a public vote.”
TSSA union rep Andi Fox tried to amend the manifesto so that it would include support for a ‘confirmatory’ ballot on any deal, but the proposal was defeated with only 11 votes in favour. Corbyn, the nine local party reps and the youth rep are understood to have voted against.
Following the NEC meeting, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Sadly, it doesn’t appear that there is anything straight-talking about Labour’s latest Brexit fudge. Our union is obviously disappointed that our amendment to give the British people the final say over any Brexit deal did not find favour.”
However, as LabourList predicted before the meeting, attendees said it was a nuanced and calm debate. NEC member Darren Williams posted on Facebook: “Despite the lurid media coverage and speculation beforehand, the special Labour NEC meeting today was decidedly harmonious.”
Although the party manifesto will only commit to another EU referendum under certain conditions, nearly half of Labour’s MEP candidates have already pledged to “campaign to give the people the final say” and “campaign to Remain in the referendum” regardless of how the cross-party Brexit talks conclude.
There has been mixed reactions from Labour Remainers: pro-PV Corbynsceptic MPs such as Wes Streeting and Darren Jones have tweeted that the NEC has made the right decision, but many activists have expressed disappointment.
Bridget Phillipson of the People’s Vote campaign was more critical than other pro-PV MPs, as were members of the Love Socialism Hate Brexit group including Lloyd Russell-Moyle:
Fudge 🍬 is meant to be sweet goodness that melts on the tongue 👅 so why does this fudge taste like puke 🤮 and stick in the throat😵?
— Lloyd Russell-Moyle (@lloyd_rm) April 30, 2019