Europe Politics

Senior Labour lawmaker says second Brexit vote is only one option the party will pursue

Key Points
  • Thornberry criticized the current version of a deal with the European Union, negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative — or as it is often known, "Tory" — government.
  • And she described the uncertainty surrounding the approval process for the "lousy Tory deal" as being "quite scary," and she insisted that as a consequence the British public should have a say over its eventual passage into law.

A senior lawmaker in Britain's main opposition Labour party has ruled out that its leadership will definitively pursue a second Brexit referendum vote as its next course of action.

The comments follow Parliament's outright rejection in a vote Wednesday night of Labour's alternative Brexit proposal, which included a permanent membership of the EU's customs union.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary and therefore the Labour party's chief foreign affairs spokesperson, acknowledged the party's latest legislative defeat, but insisted that Labour's preference for a Brexit that involves close alignment with Europe on trade remained a viable parliamentary option for the future.

"There may be other opportunities for us to put it again," she told CNBC of the proposal, "because we don't know what's going to happen in the next few days."

Thornberry criticized the current version of a deal with the European Union, negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative — or as it is often known, "Tory" — government. And she described the uncertainty surrounding the approval process for the "lousy Tory deal" as being "quite scary," and she insisted that as a consequence the British public should have a say over its eventual passage into law.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had last night somewhat ambiguously endorsed a second public vote pertaining to EU membership, which was first adopted as an element of the party's official platform by grassroots members during a September 2018 national conference.

He told lawmakers after the Wednesday vote that Labour would "continue to push for a close economic relationship" with Europe, "or a general election." A previous Labour attempt to trigger a general election by tabling a motion of no confidence in May's government was narrowly defeated earlier in the year.

And Corbyn's previously hesitant and often reticent stance about a referendum re-run has left many members of his parliamentary colleagues uncertain as to the level of support he will be willing to grant this course of action in future parliamentary maneuvers.

These latest public statements from Corbyn and Thornberry also seem to highlight a significant difference inside the party when it comes to the prospect of a fresh plebiscite.

Keir Starmer, the party's Brexit spokesman, had said Wednesday evening that he was "disappointed" with the legislative defeat. Earlier in the day he had promised that in the event of any such loss Labour would "support or put forward an amendment in favor of a public vote. That public vote would include a credible leave option and (a) remain (option)."

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