Labour manifesto restates position on another referendum

Labour has agreed a European elections manifesto that restates the party’s commitment to pushing for another referendum if it cannot change the Brexit deal or force a general election.

A high-stakes meeting of its ruling body decided the manifesto would be “fully in line” with Labour’s existing policy, a source told Sky News.

The manifesto will be published “soon”, a party spokesperson promised.

UK EU
Image: The UK is currently set to leave the EU on 31 October

It comes after Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson walked out of an earlier meeting of the shadow cabinet when he was not shown the draft document.

He has called for the party to explicitly commit to a second EU referendum ahead of next month’s European Parliament elections.

When he emerged from the meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee, Mr Watson said the manifesto would be launched next week.

But he repeatedly declined to answer if he was happy with the outcome of the more than five-hour conversation.

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Pro-referendum Labour MPs appeared happy with the decision, as they said a Tory-Labour Brexit compromise deal would never happen and those on the government benches would not vote for an election.

“People’s Vote only thing left – bingo,” wrote Ben Bradshaw on Twitter.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Supporters of the 'People's Vote' campaign group demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament, calling for another referendum on the Brexit decision, on January 14, 2019 in London, England. MPs will vote tomorrow on whether to support the Prime Minister's Brexit plan, which has faced criticism from all supporters on both sides of the debate. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Image: Labour’s manifesto position was agreed at the party conference last year

Bitter rifts over Labour’s position on Brexit have broken out inside the party over recent months.

Rows over whether “Remain” should be on the ballot paper and if a referendum would be called on any EU divorce deal the party brokers with the government have dominated discussions.

Its refusal to explicitly campaign for another referendum was one of the factors behind a splinter of Labour MPs breaking off to form The Independent Group.

Labour’s current policy on another poll was decided at the party’s conference last year, where shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer received a standing ovation for saying “nobody is ruling out Remain as an option”.

It was not a line included in the speech briefed as he stood up to deliver it.

The UK may have to hold EU Parliament elections
Image: The UK may have to hold EU Parliament elections

The Euro elections are due to be held on 23 May if the prime minister has failed to pass a Brexit deal by then.

Still without the support of some Tory Brexiteers and her confidence and supply partners the DUP, Theresa May has lost three votes on her withdrawal agreement.

It means the UK is due to leave the EU with no deal by 31 October at the latest, or 1 June if it refuses to participate in European Parliament elections.

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