World / Politics

U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn moves closer to backing second Brexit referendum

Bloomberg

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn moved closer to fully backing a second Brexit referendum, saying the public should be given a choice on any deal to leave the European Union.

Corbyn has previously said the country should be offered a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. On Sunday, he seemed to echo his deputy, Tom Watson, who has been calling for a vote on any Brexit package, including one proposed by the Labour Party.

“It would be reasonable to have a public vote to decide on that,” Corbyn said on the BBC’s “The Andrew Marr Show.”

May blamed divisions within Labour on a second referendum for the collapse in Friday’s talks between the party and the government, though Corbyn said the prime minister’s refusal to soften her red lines were at fault. While the two sides failed to find an agreement on a customs union, they did find common ground on workers’ rights, which May said she would include in a “new and improved” deal this week.

She will ask lawmakers to back her fourth attempt at passing a Brexit deal early in June. Writing in the Sunday Times, May said she will make “a bold new offer” to members of Parliament. She also said her Cabinet on Tuesday will consider a new series of indicative votes that could deliver a consensus in Parliament.

Corbyn told Marr he would not give a blank check to May’s new plans, but will consider them very carefully. He was also doubtful whether another round of indicative votes could break the impasse.

Corbyn also appeared to back away from his previous pledge to end freedom of movement after Brexit, saying a Labour government would instead be prepared to negotiate the issue of British and European workers having the ability to work in each others’ economies with the European Union.

His comments come ahead of Thursday’s European Parliamentary elections, in which both the Conservative and Labour parties are trailing in the polls. The Tory party is currently polling at just 12 percent, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer newspaper, with voters protesting May’s failure to deliver Brexit three years after the referendum.

The Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, topped the poll with 34 percent, followed by Labour at 20 percent.

Last week May agreed to chart a path for resigning if she can’t get her deal through Parliament on its fourth attempt. That has spurred Tory hopefuls who want to replace her, including former foreign secretary and bookies’ favorite Boris Johnson, who backs a no-deal Brexit.

But on Monday, a group of 60 Tory MPs are set to launch a campaign seeking to stop May’s replacement from pursuing no deal, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The so-called One Nation Caucus, led by Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, will launch a declaration of 10 values on Monday, rejecting “narrow nationalism” and calling for the U.K. to be a leader on the global stage.

The group also includes Nicky Morgan and Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood, who Sunday ruled out running for leader. He criticized colleagues who appear to be using Brexit to boost their own popularity, instead of working in the national interest.

“Our focus must be to get Brexit across the line. Get that out the way, so we can then have a bigger, wider debate as to how we can earn the respect of the nation; to be a one nation, progressive party, center-right, fiscally responsible, able to take the nation forward,” Ellwood told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Philip Hammond will also warn leadership candidates against pursuing no deal this week.

In a speech to the CBI, the U.K.’s premier business organization, on Wednesday, he will likely say that populism “is the ideology of easy answers” and that no Brexit solution is sustainable unless it commands a parliamentary majority, according to a person familiar with the speech.

MPs have repeatedly voted against pursuing a no-deal Brexit.

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