Labour’s Shadow Cabinet yesterday agreed that we will press for a public vote on any Brexit deal agreed by the Government, or before leaving the EU without a deal, and that Labour would campaign to remain in such a vote. The decision ends the ambiguity for which we were punished in the recent European elections. So many supporters told me that they wanted a clear assurance on a further referendum, and on our position in it, before voting Labour. Now it’s clear.
It’s been a longer process than I would have wanted, but the extensive consultation within the labour movement means that this decision now has the overwhelming support of our members, trade unions and MPs – as well as our voters. Speaking for Labour, I made it clear in March that Labour backed “a further public vote – between a credible leave option and remaining in the EU” and we have twice ‘whipped’ our MPs to vote for it, but yesterday’s decision removes any doubt.
It’s important too that we are clear that Labour will wholeheartedly campaign to remain in the EU. We campaigned to remain in 2016, because we believed it to be in the interests of our country and the continent that we share. That case is even stronger now as we look at developments around the world in the last three years.
There were media reports over suggestions from some that, if faced with a General Election, Labour should negotiate a new Brexit deal and put that to a referendum. That idea was not adopted, and I think that it’s right to focus on the immediate challenges we will face with a Boris Johnson-led Government. We’ll write our manifesto when a General Election is called, on the basis of the situation then, but it will be obviously build on our existing policy.
The challenge from Johnson is serious. He would recklessly crash out of the EU without a deal, even if that means suspending Parliament to get his way. That hasn’t happened for four centuries. Subverting our democracy in that way would be “utterly and totally unacceptable”, as former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir John Major said today, adding that he would seek a judicial review to stop it.
We will continue to work across parties and to use every parliamentary tool at our disposal to prevent the disaster of ‘no deal’ Brexit. Parliament has voted against it three times. There is a clear majority against crashing out without a deal and we will do everything to ensure that we find a legislative route to stop it.