Labour faces Brexit policy battle at party conference
Jeremy Corbyn’s party will gather in Brighton for five days of debate that will shape Labour’s plans for the expected election.
Labour heads into its party conference facing a battle over Brexit policy ahead of a looming general election.
Activists have mounted a campaign to push the party to throw its weight behind the remain cause in any second referendum despite Jeremy Corbyn’s hints he could stay neutral in a public vote.
Mr Corbyn has said that a Labour government would secure a “sensible” Brexit deal and put that to a referendum, with the other option being to stay in the European Union.
But scores of motions submitted by constituency parties at the conference in Brighton have called for the party to back staying in the European Union – which could mean campaigning against a deal secured by Labour negotiators.
Michael Chessum, from the left-wing Another Europe Is Possible group told the PA news agency: “Labour’s members and voters understand that Brexit is a Tory project – it’s about deregulating the economy and undermining the rights of working class people and migrants.
“We’ve come so far in recent months – now we need clarity and energy in our message. Only by adopting a clear remain position can Labour move the conversation on and fight the election on its domestic agenda.
“This isn’t about forcing Jeremy Corbyn to back remain personally, it’s about the party machine – its vital data and infrastructure.”
Scottish and Welsh Labour are both committed to the remain cause and members in Northern Ireland have submitted a motion to conference warning that “any form of Brexit threatens jobs, workers’ rights, migrants, the NHS, public services and the environment”.
Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell Moyle said: “This year’s conference takes place on the eve of an election. We need to go into that election united in our Brexit position – both united in terms of having the policy our members and voters want, and having a united policy across the UK.
“That means being honest with the electorate, backing remain and moving the conversation on to our radical domestic programme of jobs, investment and social justice.
“As an English Labour MP, I worry about the message it sends to voters in the rest of the UK to have UK Labour contradicting the position they hear from their own Labour parties.”
More than 90 motions are thought to have been submitted on Brexit, the majority supporting a remain stance.
Efforts to find an agreed form of words for a conference motion will take place at a behind-closed-doors meeting, with a vote on the party’s position expected on Monday.
Meanwhile, Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson will promise to revive their bid to force a referendum on any Brexit deal that Boris Johnson brings to the Commons.
They will be at a rally on Saturday organised by the People’s Vote campaign, which is calling for a referendum.
Mr Kyle said: “No one can trust Boris Johnson to solve this Brexit crisis either with no deal or a deal.
“If he tries to force his vision for a destructive Brexit through Parliament, we will seek to amend it so that it can only proceed if the people get the chance to have the final say.”
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn is expected to address a rally at The World Transformed festival which runs alongside the Labour event on Saturday night, while his keynote speech will bring the conference to a close on Wednesday.
More than 13,000 people are expected to attend the five-day conference in some capacity, including 1,200 voting delegates.
Labour general secretary Jennie Formby said: “This year’s conference in Brighton will see delegates take crucial votes to decide the direction of our movement, and how we deal with the tough issues that matter to us.”