Not ruling out a second referendum, says Labour

September 26, 2018 12:00 am | Updated 03:36 am IST - Liverpool

Staying in the EU remains an option: official

Labour’s Brexit SecretaryKeir Starmer.AFPOLI SCARFF

Labour’s Brexit SecretaryKeir Starmer.AFPOLI SCARFF

The Brexit spokesman of Britain’s main Opposition Labour Party on Tuesday raised the possibility of staying in the European Union (EU), more than two years after Britons voted to leave.

Keir Starmer told the conference that another vote on Britain’s relationship with the EU should still be an option, in an attempt to bridge Labour’s divisions on Brexit.

Many young, metropolitan, newer party members vociferously oppose leaving the EU, but older, working-class voters from the party’s traditional heartlands are in favour. “It’s right that Parliament has the first say” on any Brexit deal the government strikes with Brussels, Mr. Starmer told the party’s annual conference in Liverpool.

“But if we need to break an impasse, our options must include campaigning for a public vote — and nobody is ruling out Remain as an option,” he said in an unscripted addition — to huge cheers and a standing ovation.

Voting on May’s plan

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time sceptic of the EU, has so far tried to maintain ambiguity on the subject. Prime Minister Theresa May, who has ruled out a second referendum, says leaving without a deal is the only alternative to her plan that would keep Britain close to Brussels on trade — a blueprint that has been rebuffed by EU leaders.

Mr. Starmer said that if Ms. May struck a deal that did not match Labour’s expectations — something he said “seems increasingly likely” — then it would vote against the deal in parliament.

He said Labour wanted a general election to break a Brexit deadlock in Parliament. However, if an election was not possible, a second referendum should be on the table.

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