Jeremy Corbyn today came under fresh pressure to back giving the public another say on Brexit as a senior Labour MP insisted such a move would be “democratic”.
Hilary Benn, chairman of the Commons Brexit committee, believes that gridlock in the Commons over the UK quitting the EU may be impossible to break.
“If Parliament in the end cannot reach agreement around something, then the options that are on the table may have to go back to the British people,” he told Sky News. “That would be democratic. It’s not what I’ve been arguing for but it may be where we end up.”
Mr Corbyn has so far resisted moves towards a second referendum and was today stepping up his call for a general election at the “earliest opportunity” if Mrs May’s proposals are blocked in the Commons.
He argued that his party could negotiate a better Brexit deal based on a customs union and a strong single-market relationship with the EU.
In a speech in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, he said: “Any political leader who wants to bring the country together … cannot wish away the votes of 17 million people who wanted to leave … any more than they can ignore the concerns of the 16 million who voted to remain.
“I know people are genuinely scared by the prospect of no deal. I meet people who are frightened … and going through real stress.”
But Labour is itself deeply split over Brexit, and the divisions were further laid bare today as shadow cabinet ministers warned backbench MPs not to “trust” the Government if it offers concessions on workers’ rights to get them to support Theresa May’s Brexit proposals.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner tweeted: “The PM is attempting to ‘woo’ Labour MPs by promising to safeguard pay and conditions for workers if they back her botched Brexit deal. This is a cynical self-interest attempt to save herself.”
In a sign that No 10 could win over some Labour MPs, four backbenchers in Leave constituencies, John Mann, Gareth Snell, Caroline Flint and Lisa Nandy, tabled an amendment to the Government’s Brexit blueprint which would seek to protect workers’ rights after Britain splits from the EU.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon also stressed that any commitments from the Government on workers’ rights would have to be legally binding rather than simply relying on pledges by ministers.
He also signalled that a vote of no-confidence in the Government could come within hours of Mrs May’s deal being defeated, as expected, in the Commons on Tuesday.