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- Jeremy Corbyn and Labour authorities to decide the party’s referendum policy in key meetings this week.
- The party is under huge pressure from MPs, MEPs and members to explicitly back a new Brexit referendum in the campaign for next month’s European Parliament elections.
- 22 Labour MEPs and European election candidates have pledged to campaign for a new referendum regardless of what party authorities agreeing, potentially creating a major party split.
- Corbyn’s office and senior Shadow Cabinet Ministers are concerned that being a pro-referendum party could cost Labour votes.
LONDON – The Labour Party row over whether to campaign for a new Brexit referendum is set to reach boiling point this week when senior officials and Members of Parliament work out their policy for the upcoming European elections.
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will on Tuesday meet to discuss whether the party’s manifesto for next month’s European Parliament elections should explicitly commit to holding a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
Labour MPs will on Monday evening also hold one of their regular meetings in the Houses of Parliament, prior to the NEC discussions on Tuesday, with the party’s Brexit policy set to be high on the agenda.
It is a question that splits the party in two. Shadow Cabinet Ministers like Tom Watson and Brexit spokesperson Sir Keir Starmer want Labour to push for a referendum on any Brexit deal – and again campaign for Remain.
This is a position supported by most Labour members, delegates, and a significant number of its MPs.
22 Labour Members of European Parliament and European election candidates on Monday pledged to campaign for a new referendum on Brexit, regardless of what the Labour NEC agrees on Tuesday.
The list includes Labour’s leader and deputy leader in the European Parliament, Richard Corbett and Seb Dance.
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However, a number of Shadow Cabinet Ministers and aides of Corbyn are less keen, and share the concern that becoming an ambiguous pro-referendum party could cost Labour votes at the next general election.
One Shadow Cabinet Minister close to Corbyn told Business Insider that Starmer’s recent remarks about embracing a new referendum had hurt Labour’s support in private polling ahead of this week’s local elections.
Despite this, Andrew Lewin, who chairs the Remain Labour group, said that Corbyn should listen to the “overwhelming majority of members and voters who want to Remain in the EU” through a referendum.
He said: “I am delighted that so many of our candidates have pledged to campaign for that outcome in the European elections. I hope and expect that more will join them in the coming days”
“Remain voters across the country who want to defeat Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party can now vote with confidence and enthusiasm for Labour candidates who have pledged to fight for our future, as members of the European Union.”
Labour’s pro-EU members were in uproar last week when HuffPost UK revealed that the party had produced a leaflet for the European elections which didn’t reference support for a new Brexit referendum.
One Labour MEP who is putting pressure on the party to back a new referendum told Business Insider: “If there’s an opportunity to make it less shit, the party should grab that with both hands.”