Corbyn faces showdown with Labour members over Brexit policy

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Labour members will get the chance to vote on the party adopting an outright pro-Remain position, despite Jeremy Corbyn pushing for Labour to delay a decision on its Brexit stance.

Following a late-night meeting on Sunday, it was decided two motions will be put to a vote at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton on Monday.

These will be one advocating a pro-Remain position and another that will give Labour a neutral position.

If either motion is supported by conference attendees, it is likely to become Labour policy.

Mike Buckley, director of Labour for a Public Vote, said: “On Monday Labour conference will vote on a motion that, if passed, would commit the party to campaign for Remain in all circumstances. This reflects the opinion of the vast majority of our members and voters.

“Labour is already the only main party committed to a democratic vote on Brexit.

“If we add a commitment to Remain we will at last be providing the leadership the country needs, in contrast to the chaos offered by an increasingly extreme Conservative Party.”

More from Brexit

There has also been another Brexit motion tabled by Mr Corbyn, which the leader’s allies insist was approved in a vote by the party’s ruling body – the National Executive Committee (NEC).

It says the NEC believes “the party shall only decide how to campaign in such a referendum – through a one-day special conference, following the election of a Labour government”.

A source close to Mr Corbyn told Sky News it passed the NEC by 16 votes to 10, with one abstention.

It is currently unclear whether this motion will also be put to a vote on Monday.

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his position on Brexit
Image: Jeremy Corbyn has defended his position on Brexit

Other major developments in Brighton include:

  • Deputy leader Tom Watson insisted Labour must back Remain in another referendum, urging the party to “work positively together”
  • Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry warned Labour could lose 30% of its vote to the Greens and Lib Dems if its position is not clear on the EU
  • Labour members voted to support effectively abolishing private schools and redistributing their property to the state sector in the party’s next manifesto
  • Police removed a banner outside the conference showing the leader of Israel firing missiles saying “defamation” at Mr Corbyn
Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer at the Anti-Brexit 'Trust the People' march and rally held by the People's Vote campaign during the Labour Party Conference in Brighton
Image: Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer at the anti-Brexit ‘Trust the People’ march

The row within Labour over Brexit will come to a head when members vote on the different motions on Monday.

Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, emailed all MPs after an NEC meeting on Saturday to confirm it had been voted through.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn and Brighton Council leader, Nancy Platt walk with young party members along Brighton Promenade for a staged arrival picture ahead of the 2019 Labour Party Conference on September 19, 2019 in Brighton, England. Labour return to Brighton for the 2019 conference against a backdrop of political turmoil over Brexit. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Back Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit or ‘step aside’, Labour frontbenchers warned

Unite union boss Len McCluskey, a key ally of Mr Corbyn, called on the party’s senior figures to fall in behind the policy or “step aside”.

:: Listen to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We must go in to an election united, and when we have a policy on Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn makes it clear that that is the policy, then that is what leading members of the shadow cabinet should argue for.

“If they find that they can’t argue for it because they feel strongly, well of course they have that right but they should step aside.”

But deputy leader Mr Watson tried to push back on the policy hard.

He told Sky News: “The importance for me this week is that our delegates decide what our position is. I think it’s up to our membership to decide whether we’re going for Leave or Remain.

“It seems to me logical and pretty simple that we can make that decision this week, and I hope we can.”

And London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Sky News that “we may leave this conference without anybody being any the wiser what our position is”.

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