Thornberry urges shadow cabinet not to back away from second referendum

PUBLISHED: 11:33 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:30 04 April 2019

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (centre), shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey in his office in the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (centre), shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey in his office in the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Emily Thornberry has told the shadow cabinet that supporting other Brexit options that are not a confirmatory vote would be a “breach” of the party’s conference motion.

In her letter, obtained by the Guardian, the shadow foreign secretary set out her points ahead of an emergency shadow cabinet meeting which she was unable to attend.

“If we look like reaching any other decision than confirmatory vote that would be in breach of the decision made unanimously by conference in Liverpool and overwhelmingly supported by our members and it needs to be put to a vote by the shadow cabinet,” the letter said.

She added that if there was a vote “can I - in writing - confirm that my votes are that yes, any deal agreed by parliament must be subject to a confirmatory public vote, and yes, the other option on the ballot must be remain”.

Following his lengthy talks with the prime minister, which included senior frontbenchers from both sides, Jeremy Corbyn said: “We had a discussion and there hasn’t been as much change as I expected but we are continuing to have some discussions tomorrow morning to explore some of the technical issues.

“The meeting was useful but inconclusive.”

Asked about whether a referendum on any agreement should be on the table - as shadow foreign secretary Thornberry has reportedly said - Corbyn said: “There was no deal offered (by the prime minister).

“There was no deal offered by us either. We just discussed where we are at.

“She reiterated where she is at at the present time. So red lines in the future didn’t come up.”

But Corbyn said he raised the issue of a public vote with Mrs May.

“I said this is the policy of our party, that we would want to pursue the option of a public vote to prevent crashing out or to prevent leaving with a bad deal.

“There was no agreement reached on that, we just put it there as one of the issues that the Labour Party conference voted on last year.”

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer confirmed the idea of a confirmatory referendum would be discussed in the second round of talks.

“We have been discussing Labour’s alternative plan and issues such as confirmatory votes,” he told reporters.

“We had discussions yesterday and we are going to continue them today.”

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