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A show of hands at the Labour Party Conference
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

Labour votes for option of second Brexit referendum

September 25, 2018

Opinions differed on whether to conduct a second Brexit referendum when delegates voted at their annual conference. But there was unanimity in members' rejection of the plan put forth by Prime Minister Theresa May.


Early Tuesday evening Labour Party delegates voted overwhelmingly for a motion making a second referendum on Brexit an option. The ballot was a rejection of the government's so-called Chequers Plan, which Downing Street has said "is the only plan on the table." The vote came after a day of speeches weighing possible courses of action.

The outcome of the vote seemed a foregone conclusion, nevertheless, day three of the opposition party's annual conference in Liverpool appears to have been about more than a rejection of British Prime Minister Theresa May's unpopular proposal for the UK's pending departure from the European Union.

Read more: Opinion: Brexit has reached a dead end

Britain: Farmers against Brexit

A direct challenge to Corbyn

The most striking speech of the day was delivered by Labour Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer in what many perceived as a direct challenge to party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Starmer vowed that party parliamentarians would vote against May's proposal as it clearly failed to pass Labour's "six tests." Those tests include the strength of future relations with the EU and protecting workers' rights.

Starmer received a rousing standing ovation when he told delegates: "It's right that parliament has the first say but if we need to break the impasse our options must include campaigning for a public vote and nobody is ruling out remain as an option."

Party leader Corbyn has taken a more pragmatic approach, insisting the issue is about steering Brexit rather than relegating it to a second referendum. Many in the Labour Party have warned that a second referendum would alienate the 35 percent of party voters who cast ballots for the Leave campaign.

I don't like them but I need them

Speaking in New York, Theresa May claimed that Labour was ready to "accept any deal Europe gives, regardless of how bad it is." She went on to say that such a move was "not in the national interest."

Yet, as dismissive as she is of Labour, May will likely need its votes if she hopes to get her proposal through parliament as hardliners in her own party have refused to back it.

'Not a solution'

In Brussels, there is serious doubt that a second referendum will be held, with one official telling Reuters news agency: "That does not sound like a solution to anything. The first referendum is still keeping us busy. And will they want to have a third one in two years?"

Opposition to Brexit is growing in the UK

js/kms (AP, Reuters)

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