Britain’s opposition Labour Party will back a new referendum on Brexit after parliament defeated its alternative plan for leaving the European Union, its eurosceptic leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
With 29 days left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, both Prime Minister Theresa May and Corbyn have been forced into making changes to their approaches to the divorce.
Corbyn, who voted against membership in 1975 and gave only reluctant backing to the 2016 campaign to remain in the EU, on Wednesday gave ambiguous backing for another referendum, saying he would push for one alongside a British parliamentary election.
It is the first time since Britons voted in 2016 to leave the EU that one of its two major political parties has thrown its weight behind giving voters a chance to change their minds. But it was unclear what the exact question might be.
“After tonight’s votes in parliament, we’ll continue to push for a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election. We’ll also back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or disastrous no deal”, Corbyn said.
John McDonnell, the second most powerful man in the Labour Party, said it would put down an amendment calling for a second referendum as soon as May brought a deal back to parliament.
Britain’s Brexit minister, Steve Barclay, said there was no consensus in parliament for another referendum or even on what question might be asked.
After months of saying that Britain must leave the EU on time on March 29, May opened up the possibility on Tuesday of a short extension to the exit date.
She is hoping to bring back a tweaked divorce accord for a parliamentary vote, which could come as early as next week but may not take place until March 12.
Talks with the EU have moved forward in the last week, but there is a significant amount of work to do, May’s spokesman said.