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UK opposition calls for second vote on Brexit deal, but skepticism abounds

Posted at 9:54 AM, Jul 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 12:31:20-04

The United Kingdom’s opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called on the country’s next Prime Minister to put their Brexit plan to a second referendum, adding that his Labour party would campaign for the country to remain in the European Union.

Corbyn’s announcement on Tuesday follows weeks of consultations with trade unions — traditional stakeholders in the Labour party — in an attempt to get wide support for a shift in the party’s Brexit policy.

However, his statement stopped short of calling for a second referendum in all cases.

Corbyn, who has long come under fire from Remainers in his own party for what they perceive as his ambiguous stance on Brexit, announced that: “Whoever becomes the new Prime Minister should put their deal, or No Deal, back to the people in a public vote.”

“In those circumstances, Labour would campaign for Remain against either No Deal or a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs,” he added in a tweet.

The UK has just months until a October 31 deadline to exit the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation two months ago after failing to get her EU withdrawal deal approved by Parliament.

Her replacement — who is currently being elected by Conservative Party members — will be either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt. The winner will be announced by July 23 and will be charged with getting a Brexit deal through a deeply divided Westminster. Both Johnson and Hunt have taken hardline positions on leaving the EU.

Mixed messages

Interpretations of Corbyn’s announcement varied widely, illustrating the complexity of Brexit politics.

Arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party that took 31.71% of the vote in May’s European elections, tweeted: “Typical @JeremyCorbyn with a mixed message, the truth is that he has lost the internal battle and that Labour is now a Remain party.”

On the other hand, Tom Brake, Brexit spokesman for the pro-Remain Liberal Democrat party — which also saw a surge in support in May — was skeptical of Corbyn’s pledge.

Brake said on Twitter: “Labour are still a party of Brexit.” Corbyn “can pretend all he likes that Labour are finally moving towards backing the (Liberal Democrats) policy of a People’s Vote, but it is clear it is still his intention to negotiate a damaging Brexit deal if he gets the keys to number ten,” Brake said.

In the years before the 2016 referendum, Corbyn had long voiced his skepticism of the EU, and frustrations remain in his Shadow Cabinet over his apparent lack of clarity on the party’s Brexit position.

“We are not clear on the one single thing that people wanted to hear,” said Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, in May after criticizing her party’s performance at the European Elections.