Britain’s opposition Labour Party prefers a new election to a second referendum on Brexit, its leader said on Sunday, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May whose plans for a divorce deal with the European Union have hit an impasse.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a “People’s Vote”, or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU. But the political landscape has changed since May was ambushed by the EU on Thursday over her plans for Brexit – the biggest shift in British policy for almost half a century.
With talk of a new election swirling after May’s “Chequers” plan was all but shredded at an EU summit in Austria last week and chances of Britain exiting the bloc without a deal rising, Labour is under pressure to start setting the Brexit agenda.
Corbyn, a veteran eurosceptic who in 1975 voted “No” to Britain’s membership of the then-European Community, said that while he would listen to a debate about any possible second vote on Britain’s membership, he preferred a snap election if May failed to get a deal that Labour could support in parliament.
“Our preference would be for a general election and we can then negotiate our future relationship with Europe but let’s see what comes out of conference,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying Labour was ready to vote against any deal.
“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet our tests in order to send the government, if it is still in office, straight back to the negotiating table and if there is a general election and we are in office we would go straight to the negotiating table.”
Britain is to exit the EU in March next year. After weeks of both sides making positive noises about prospects of clinching a divorce deal and future trading relationship, the mood music turned sour on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria, when the bloc’s leaders, one by one, came out to rubbish May’s Chequers plans.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement on Brexit negotiations with the European Union at Number 10 Downing Street, London September 21, 2018 . Jack Taylor/Pool via Reuters
A tacit agreement to try to offer her some support before she heads to what is going to be a difficult annual conference of her governing Conservative Party later this month was broken by some British diplomatic missteps.