LONDON: Labour has said it is prepared to back another EU referendum to prevent a “damaging Tory Brexit”.
Jeremy Corbyn has told Labour MPs the party will move to back another vote if their own proposed Brexit deal is rejected on Wednesday.
The BBC’s Vicky Young said it was a highly “significant” development as Mr Corbyn had previously been “lukewarm” about the idea of another vote.
Theresa May is under growing pressure to delay the 29 March Brexit date.
Labour are not yet making clear what their proposed referendum would be on.
When asked to clarify this, a spokesman for the leader’s office said: “We’ve just said we’d back a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit.”
A Labour briefing paper to MPs says that any referendum would need to have “a credible Leave option and Remain”.
The prime minister, who will update MPs on the negotiations on Tuesday, has insisted the UK can still leave next month as planned.
The UK voted to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016, but the withdrawal deal Mrs May negotiated with the EU has to be agreed by MPs – and it suffered a huge defeat by them last month.
Mrs May has ruled out a final “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal this week, but she will give MPs the chance to have their say on how the next steps for Brexit.
MPs will be able to table amendments to a government motion, putting forward their proposals on what they think should happen next.
Mr Corbyn has told his MPs that Mrs May is “recklessly running down the clock” in an attempt to “force MPs to choose between her botched deal and a disastrous no deal”.
“We cannot and will not accept,” he said.
He said Labour would also put down an amendment this week setting out its plan for a “comprehensive customs union” and “close alignment” with the single market.
The amendment also sets out guarantees on rights and standards, protection for Britain’s role in EU agencies and a security agreement which guarantees access to the European arrest warrant and “vital” shared databases, he said.
Labour has also said the party will support a cross-party amendment, proposed by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin, designed to rule out the prospect of a no-deal exit.
Mr Corbyn said: “One way or another, we will do everything in our power to prevent no deal and oppose a damaging Tory Brexit based on Theresa May’s overwhelmingly rejected deal.
“That’s why, in line with our conference policy, we are committed to also putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.”
At their conference last autumn, Labour members backed a policy of keeping all options on the table, including holding another referendum, if it could not force a general election.
However, many Labour MPs believe the party has been slowly distancing itself from that commitment after it failed to win a vote of no confidence against the government last month.
Nine Labour MPs have quit the party in the past week, partly in protest at its stance on Brexit.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer insisted the party would “deliver” on its promises.
Labour MP David Lammy, who backs a “People’s Vote” on the terms of the UK’s exit, welcomed the move by his party to “back the principle” of a referendum.
“Even if MPs can agree some sort of deal, it would be wrong to force it on the British people when we now know so many of the promises made in 2016 have been broken, and any deal will be worse than the one we’ve already got inside the EU,” he said.
Labour’s Hilary Benn, who chairs the Commons Brexit committee, said talk of a referendum was still some way off as MPs would have another opportunity to vote on Theresa May’s deal by 12 March.
But if the deal was rejected, he said, it would “open up” a range of other possibilities, one of which would be to put the final decision “in the people’s hands”.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner tweeted that if the prime minister did not support Labour’s amendment, then “the time has come” to stop a no deal scenario with a public vote.
Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable said he welcomed the news.
“My party will work with Labour and others to secure a People’s Vote with an option to remain,” he said.
“We have long argued it is the right and logical thing to do for the people to have the final say on Brexit.”__BBC