Jeremy Corbyn confirmed at the special Brexit meeting of the shadow cabinet today that Labour is now committed to a public vote on any Brexit deal – but not to supporting Remain.
Although there was widespread speculation that Labour would be shifting its position on Brexit, the Labour leader made clear at the gathering of opposition frontbenchers this afternoon that the party is still “committed to respecting the result of the referendum”.
He made the shift towards a public vote on any Brexit deal – from backing a referendum only in certain circumstances, to avoid no deal or a “damaging Tory Brexit” – after the disappointing European election results.
The outcome of today’s meeting is therefore not the adoption of a new position on Brexit, but it formalises the policy settled on by the Labour leader last month.
Addressing the shadow cabinet, Corbyn said: “We have committed to respecting the result of the referendum, and have strongly made the case for an alternative plan for Brexit as the only serious deal that could potentially command the support of the House. At conference last year we passed our policy, the members’ policy. Over the past nine months, I have stuck faithfully to it.
“A no deal Brexit risks would plunge us into the worst excesses of disaster capitalism and trash our economy on the back of fantasy Tory trade deals or worse, very real and very damaging trade deals with Donald Trump, opening up our NHS to American companies.
“I have already made the case, on the media and in Dublin, that it is now right to demand that any deal is put to a public vote. That is in line with our conference policy, which agreed a public vote would be an option.
“A ballot paper would need to contain real choices for both leave and remain voters. This will of course depend on parliament. I want to hear your views, I will be hearing trade union views next week, and then I want to set out our views to the public.”
Responding to the news that Corbyn has only promised further consultation, not a Remain-backing stance, frontbencher Rachael Maskell from the Love Socialism Hate Brexit group commented: “By late July, we will have an extreme right wing Tory Prime Minister, pursuing a hard Brexit that will wreck our communities and undermine our rights.
“As a party, we need to present a clear alternative to transform Britain and Europe, and we need to be energetic and enthusiastic about promoting it. Only a radical Labour message can keep us in Europe, and only by opposing Brexit can we be true to our values and set out a radical vision to transform the country. Our position must be crystal clear before Boris Johnson walks into Number 10.”