Richard Corbett says Labour could back a second EU referendum

Fresh Labour splits over Brexit as the party’s leader in Brussels says they could back a second EU referendum

  • Richard Corbett said many in Labour want a second referendum on the final deal
  • He said Labour frontbench has not made up its mind on holding another vote
  • Labour split between Brexit-backing core voters and Remain-supporting MPs 
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He said he is open to ‘reconsidering’ the Brexit vote if Labour do not like the deal thrashed out by Theresa May (file pic)

Labour’s leader in Brussels risked sparking fury today by saying the party could back a second Brexit referendum.

Richard Corbett said Britain’s looming departure risks damaging Britain and sucking money out of the NHS and other vital public services.

He said he is open to ‘reconsidering’ the Brexit vote if Labour does not like the deal thrashed out by Theresa May.

His comments will be seen as an attempt to pile the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to change his stance and oppose leaving the EU’s customs union and single market. 

And they highlight the bitter splits within the Labour Party, whose MPs and supporters in the south overwhelmingly voted Remain but whose voters in the Labour heartlands backed Brexit.

In an interview posted on his website, Mr Corbett said: ‘I’m not surprised there is a growing clamour, even from people who voted Leave, to say we want to be able to reconsider because Brexit’s turning out to be somewhat different from what was promised by the Leave campaign.

‘Far from bringing in lots of money that would all go to the NHS, it’s costing an arm and a leg. Far from helping out economy, it is damaging it.

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‘Far from having easy new trade deals with the rest of the world that is looking rather dodgy and rather unlikely, or at least not on terms that would be beneficial to Britain.’

‘So it’s not surprising to say its all very well to vote for Brexit on the general principal but we want a say on the actual Brexit deal once we can see what it really entails.’

Remain-backing Labour MPs are urging Mr Corbyn to back a slew of changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill when it returns to the House of Commons next month.

They want Labour to back Lords amendments to the legislation demanding Britain stays in the EU customs union and European Economic Area (EEA) after Brexit

Brexiteers have warned that the move would defeat the purpose of Brexit as it would stop the UK being able to change its tariffs and strike trade deals globally.

Mr Corbett said: ‘At this stage, the Labour Party has not called for a second referendum because we’re still in the phase of discovering where the divided government will end up going. 

‘But the Labour movement hasn’t ruled it out either.

‘I think as we move into a situation – if we are faced with a Brexit deal that the Government brings back which is manifestly damaging for Britain which is likely to be or is rejected by the House of Commons and you have a ratification crisis, we have said that the House of Commons should then determine where we go next.

‘And of course one of the options is saying go away and negotiate something different or better. Another option is to renegotiate Brexit.’

He said there are plenty of people in the labour party who think it is a ‘democratic principal’ that another vote should be held because ‘we have the right to reconsider’.

He added: ‘I am very sympathetic to that view.

‘There is a lot of sympathy for the view that if the deal that comes back is bad and costly deal….we should be able to reconsider it.’ 

The Labour leader in Brussels said that if voters do not approve of the deal thrashed out by Theresa May (pictured on Sunday going to church with her husband Philip in Maidenhead on Sunday) then Labour could back another vote 

How has Labour’s position on Brexit shifted since the election?

Critics say Jeremy Corbyn is even more determined than the government to have his cake and eat it on Brexit

Labour’s Brexit stance has undergone so many changes it can be difficult to keep track.

Even during the referendum in 2016 Jeremy Corbyn was accused of half-hearted campaigning and hedging his bets – admitting he was only ‘7 out of 10’ in favour of Remain.  

SInce then the leadership has been trying to maintain ‘constructive ambiguity’ so it can keep hold of heartland voters who often back Brexit – without alienating the party’s largely Remainer members and MPs.

But critics say Mr Corbyn is even more determined than the government to have his cake and eat it, and has no real answers to what shape Brexit should take.


After the election in June last year, Mr Corbyn sacked three frontbenchers for voting in favour of a Commons motion calling for the UK to stay in the single market.

The same month shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘I think people will interpret membership of the single market as not respecting that referendum.’

However, the following September Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said single market membership was possible ‘if the European Union wanted to talk about reform of freedom of movement rules’.

Sir Keir Starmer has said the party wants ‘a partnership that retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union’.

Labour whipped its peers to abstain from a vote in favour of the single market earlier this month, but the instructions were largely ignored and many backed the idea. 

Mr Corbyn briefed MPs on his single market stance at a behind closed doors meeting on May 14. But they did not seem entirely clear on his position, with one backbencher emerging to say he had left the prospect open, but another saying he had made clear the option was ‘dead’.

A massive rebellion is expected in a Commons vote that could happen next month.


Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner said in July 2017 that staying in the EU customs union would be a ‘disaster’ as it would entail an ‘asymmetrical relationship’ and damage Britain’s ability to make deals with other countries.

But in February this year Sir Keir confirmed that the party wants to stay in a customs union with the bloc – although not the current one because that would mean EU membership. He said ‘the only way realistically’ for the UK to get tariff-free access to the EU.

The following month Emily Thornberry said Labour wanted to maintain the existing customs union.

Last month Barry Gardiner was caught on mic giving a withering assessment of Labour’s six tests for approving a Brexit deal, saying they were ‘b*****cks’

‘What we want to do is we want to remain in the customs union,’ she said. ‘We don’t want any faffing around with any of the nonsense that the Government is coming up with in relation to alternatives to the customs union. We want to remain in the customs union.’ 

Last month Mr Gardiner was caught on mic giving a withering assessment of Labour’s six tests for approving a Brexit deal, saying they were ‘b*****cks’.

‘We know very well that we cannot have the exact same benefits,’ he said.

Mr Gardiner has also suggested that fears over the Irish border are being whipped up for ‘political’ reasons. 


In December last year, Sir Keir said he would like a ‘Norway-style treaty’ and as a result ‘there may have to be payments to be negotiated’.

However, in January this year, John McDonnell said ‘I don’t understand why we would have to pay’ for access to the single market.

In December last year, Sir Keir Starmer said he would like a ‘Norway-style treaty’ and as a result ‘there may have to be payments to be negotiated’


Last September Mr Watson said the party was ‘not ruling it out, but it’s highly unlikely’.

But in November, letters emerged from shadow home secretary Diane Abbott to constituents saying she would ‘argue for the right of the electorate to vote on any deal that is finally agreed’.

In December, Mr Corbyn said ‘We’ve not made any decision on a second referendum.’

But by January this year he was stating: ‘We are not supporting or calling for a second referendum. What we’ve called for is a meaningful vote in Parliament.’

Numerous backbenchers have said they want to see a second referendum on a Brexit deal. 


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