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Jeremy Corbyn U-turn as Labour leader ready to back second referendum

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Prime Minister Theresa May
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

By Kevin Doyle

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made a major U-turn by announcing he will support a second Brexit referendum.

His party will try to block a no-deal Brexit and put forward or support an amendment urging a public vote to stop what he called a "damaging Tory Brexit".

Until now Mr Corbyn has been reluctant to back a second referendum despite intense pressure from within his own party.

However, last night he relented and told a parliamentary party meeting "one way of another, we will do everything in our power to prevent no-deal".

He told MPs that with the Brexit deadline looming, Prime Minister Theresa May was "recklessly running down the clock" in an attempt to "force MPs to choose between her botched deal and a disastrous no-deal".

Labour said it would put forward an amendment calling on the Government to adopt its Brexit proposals, including a permanent customs union with the EU and close alignment with the bloc's single market.

"If Parliament rejects our plan, then Labour will deliver on the promise we made at our annual conference and support a public vote," said the party's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer.

European leaders are convinced that delaying Brexit is now the only way to avoid a disorderly crash-out by the UK.

With 31 days until Brexit, Mrs May is under huge pressure to take what EU Council president Donald Tusk termed the "rational decision" of seeking an extension to Article 50.

The Irish Government is prepared to lobby other EU members to grant the postponement in a bid to give the House of Commons space to define the type of Brexit it wants.

However, it appears key figures, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minster Mark Rutte, will take little convincing. Germany's leader raised the idea with Mrs May during a meeting on the fringes of the EU-Arab summit in Egypt yesterday. And Mr Rutte, who described himself as one of the UK's best friends, said they are "sleepwalking" into chaos. "Wake up. This is real," he said.

Mrs May has suggested she could try to take her withdrawal agreement through Parliament before it has been formally approved by the other 27 member states.

Rejecting calls for a delay, the Prime Minister said: "An extension to Article 50, a delay in this process, doesn't deliver a decision in Parliament, it doesn't deliver a deal.

"All it does is precisely what the word 'delay' says.

"Any extension of Article 50 isn't addressing the issues.

"We have it within our grasp."

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