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Corbyn wins vote for Labour to stay Brexit neutral until after election

Vote: Jeremy Corbyn
Vote: Jeremy Corbyn

By David Hughes

Jeremy Corbyn has survived a Labour revolt over Brexit as the party's conference backed his policy of remaining neutral until after a general election.

The Labour leader has promised that a government he leads will negotiate a new Brexit deal and put it to a referendum but he has resisted calls to say how the party should campaign in that public vote.

Delegates at the conference in Brighton backed a statement setting out his position and broke into a chorus of "oh, Jeremy Corbyn" after the result of the vote was announced.

In chaotic scenes, the conference then rejected a motion which would have called on Labour to come out in support of Remain now rather than waiting until after an election.

The result is a boost for Mr Corbyn, who has argued that Labour should go into the expected general election without making a decision on how it should campaign on the referendum his party has promised within six months of taking office.

A decision on how the party would campaign in the referendum would be taken at a special conference.

The vote came after shadow cabinet ministers Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer both used their keynote conference speeches to say they would back Remain.

After delegates backed a statement from the ruling National Executive Committee in favour of Mr Corbyn's position, a vote followed on composite 13 - which called for Labour to "campaign energetically" for a second referendum and to stay in the EU in such a public vote.

It was announced this motion was defeated following a show of hands among delegates allowed to vote, although there was confusion among some of those on stage who were overseeing the proceedings. As delegates cast their votes, the chairwoman, Wendy Nichols could be seen having a discussion with Labour general secretary Jennie Formby.

Announcing the result, Ms Nichols said: "Sorry I thought it was one way... and Jennie said something else, so. Yes, that was lost."

Further confusion followed, with Ms Nichols reiterating the motion was rejected despite appeals for a formal card vote by some members.

Andrew Lewin, of the Remain Labour campaign, said the party now faced going into a general election without a clear position. He told the PA news agency: "We are going to be unable to answer the question, 'Are you for Remain or Leave'.

"Obviously, lots of good people and senior people like Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry etc are going to say individually, but that's not what the public will see.

"The public will see the leader - and therefore by definition a party - that can't make its mind up and I think that will be really damaging."

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly reacted to the Labour vote, saying: "Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have once again dodged making any decision on Brexit, proving yet again all they offer is more of the same - more talk, more indecision and more pointless delay.

"It is now official Labour policy to delay Brexit until at least 2020 and even longer if the EU demand it.

"Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will get Brexit done by 31 October, whatever the circumstances, and get on with delivering the change that people voted for."

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