Labour frontbencher breaks ranks and calls for a second referendum

PUBLISHED: 11:52 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:45 21 November 2018

Steve Reed

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A Labour frontbencher has broken ranks with the party leadership and called unequivocally for the people to have a say on the final Brexit deal.

Steve Reed, Jeremy Corbyn's shadow culture minister, has written in London's Evening Standard newspaper that a fresh referendum was the only way to unblock the impasse facing Parliament.

It comes just three days after Corbyn declined to support calls for a second referendum, insisting that it was an option that can only be considered in the long term.

And it is nine months after shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith was sacked by Corbyn after breaking with Labour policy to call for a referendum on the final deal.

In the Standard tonight, Reed writes: “MPs will not just sit there, counting down the clock until the country faces catastrophe next March.

“The Cabinet is split, Parliament is deadlocked, and a snap general election is not possible under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act without Conservative support.

"Only the people can break the logjam.”

His move was praised as brave by Anna Soubry, the Conservative former business minister and leading Remainer.

She said: “I salute his courage in speaking up for what he believes - and what represents the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs, Labour members and Labour voters.

"The sooner Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May also face up to these realities the better.”

In March Corbyn sacked Smith Corbyn on the basis that he had not been a team player and had repeatedly breached shadow cabinet collective responsibility on Brexit.

Smith said at the time he had been sacked for his “long-held views” and made clear he would continue to express them from the backbenches “in the interest of our country”.

Responding to Reed's comments, Smith said today: "Steve Reed is absolutely right and incredibly brave in this call.

"I believe that there’s no way Labour can force a general glection, much as we and the country might like one, and so the only way to stop Brexit and bring Britain back from the brink is to fight for a people’s vote."

Reed's move comes as Amber Rudd said Parliament would not accept a no-deal Brexit.

And she warned that Brexit may not go ahead if MPs rejected May's withdrawal agreement in a House of Commons vote expected next month.

The work and pensions secretary was speaking as May came under pressure from Tory Brexiteers to secure further concessions from the EU in a top-level Brussels meeting this evening.

The prime minister will meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for talks ahead of the special EU Brexit summit on Sunday at which the remaining 27 member states are expected to approve her plan.

She is under pressure to make changes to the Northern Irish backstop contained in the Brexit divorce agreement, making it clear how the UK can exit the controversial arrangement.

With large numbers of Conservatives, as well as the 10 DUP MPs who prop up May's administration in the Commons, threatening to vote down her deal, the prime minister has repeatedly warned that the alternative was a damaging no-deal Brexit.

But Rudd told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is my view that the House of Commons will stop no-deal.

"There isn't a majority in the House of Commons to allow that to take place."

The minister, a former Remain campaigner who replaced Leave-backing Esther McVey in the Cabinet following her resignation last week, added: "If it doesn't get through, anything could happen.

"The Brexiteers may lose their Brexit."

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