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Brexit: Corbyn will ‘follow what Labour says’ in a referendum

Jeremy Corbyn

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will “follow what the party says” in the event of another referendum on Brexit, his close ally Diane Abbott has said.

Speaking to the BBC, the shadow home secretary said she, like shadow chancellor John McDonnell would campaign for Remain.

However, she could not say if Mr Corbyn would do the same.

On Monday the Labour leader refused to rule out the possibility of the party staying neutral in a fresh referendum.

When asked if Labour could adopt a neutral stance, he said: “In a general election, we will put forward the opportunity for people in this country to have the final say.

“If it is no deal versus Remain then obviously John McDonnell and others have made it very clear we would support Remain.

“If there is the opportunity for some other option to be put then that will be put.

“I want to bring people together.”

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Speaking to the Today programme, Ms Abbott confirmed she would campaign for Remain but added that Labour was “a democratic party and would come to a democratic decision”.

“Jeremy wants to have the widest consultation,” she said, adding: “He can’t stay to the side on an issue like this – what he can do is bring the two sides together.

“The party and the shadow cabinet will have to debate this and arrive at a position – whatever the position is Jeremy will follow what the party says.”

What is Labour’s Brexit policy?

The Labour Party has long grappled with itself over its Brexit position with some calling for the party to be fully committed to remaining in the EU, while others have argued that such a position would risk losing votes in certain traditional Labour heartlands.

The party’s policy has been evolving since the referendum in 2016 and in July of this year the Labour leader committed to campaigning for another public vote.

In order to stop a no-deal Brexit, Mr Corbyn has said he wants to call a vote of no confidence in the government.

If he succeeds he hopes to head a temporary government which would delay the Brexit date and hold a general election.

In that general election, Labour would call for a “public vote” – a referendum – on the terms of leaving the European Union.

In the public vote he has said he wants credible options for both sides, including the option to remain.

Mr Corbyn has so far not confirmed whether the party would campaign for Remain in that scenario.

It is not yet clear whether any Labour government would try to reopen negotiations with the EU over a deal to leave, or proceed straight to a referendum.

The party told BBC News it would decide this when it produced its manifesto, which it will need to publish if a general election is called. A manifesto sets out what a party would do if it got into power.

Not an easy choice

Analysis by political correspondent Iain Watson

Mr Corbyn’s “credible leave option” would presumably resemble Labour’s previous policy of maintaining a close relationship with Brussels.

But Diane Abbott also suggested her leader would “follow what the party says” – so at this year’s annual conference there will be a concerted push to get the party to commit to Remain

But some powerful voices – including the leadership of the giant Unite union – are still likely to resist.

Labour insiders expect an early election. Remainers – including Ms Abbott – fear an equivocal policy will gift votes to the Lib Dems.

Labour Leavers say an all-out Remain position will gift votes to the Brexit Party.

Not an easy choice.

But with more of Jeremy Corbyn’s usual allies – including John McDonnell – now backing Remain, it feels that this option is gaining momentum.

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