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British Opposition To Back A Second Brexit Referendum

Brexit Alternative Plan

Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will back another EU referendum after his alternative Brexit plan was again defeated in the Commons. But the Labour leader said he will also continue to push for “other available options” including a general election.

John McDonnell said the party would table an amendment for a referendum when the “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s deal returns to Parliament. The shadow chancellor also told ITV’s Peston show he would vote for remain.

It came as MPs voted to endorse Theresa May’s Brexit strategy – but only after she made a series of concessions. The PM also faced a Brexiteer rebellion, after 20 Tory MPs voted against proposals, backed by the government, to delay the UK’s 29 March departure date if there is a no-deal scenario.

But Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was not among the 20 Tory rebels, offered an olive branch to May, as she continues to seek concessions from the EU on the controversial Irish backstop clause. The chairman of the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tories said he disagreed with those who were demanding changes to the legal text of the withdrawal agreement and would accept an appendix to it.

Other leading figures in the ERG, including deputy chairman Steve Baker, have previously dismissed the legal annexe to May’s agreement being negotiated by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. Labour’s Brexit proposals – which would see the UK join an EU customs union – were defeated by 323 votes to 240, a bigger margin than the last time MPs voted on them.

Corbyn confirmed to MPs on Monday he would back another public vote if such a defeat took place – after resisting calls to do so from pro-EU Labour MPs. After Wednesday’s vote, Corbyn said: “We will back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome. We will also continue to push for the other available options to prevent those outcomes, including a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election.”

Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson have put forward a compromise plan to back May’s deal with the condition that it is then put to a confirmatory public vote.

Former shadow cabinet minister Owen Smith, a longstanding critic of Corbyn, said: “Now that Labour’s version of Brexit has been rejected by Parliament, I expect Jeremy Corbyn to throw his full weight behind campaigning for a public vote.”

Labour MP David Lammy, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for another referendum, said: “It’s become clear today that there is no majority in the House for May’s deal, but also that Labour’s alternative plan cannot command a majority either.

“In the key votes ahead of us we must extend Article 50 to take a catastrophic no-deal off the table and use that time to put this decision back to the people to decide if they back the government’s botched Brexit deal or staying in our current EU deal.”

But Labour former minister Caroline Flint said the party should not back a further referendum despite the defeat of Corbyn’s plan. She said: “I think the British public want us to get on with this and sort out a deal that works.”

She said Labour’s leadership should “engage in negotiation, to use the leverage you have got, to get a better deal”.

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