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What is Labour’s Brexit policy?

Here are some key questions on the topic.

Labour’s Brexit position is to renegotiate Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and put it to another public vote against Remain (Joe Giddens/PA)
Labour’s Brexit position is to renegotiate Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and put it to another public vote against Remain (Joe Giddens/PA)

By Sophie Morris, PA Political Staff

If the Labour Party win the General Election they want to renegotiate Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and put it to another public vote alongside the option of Remain.

But this hasn’t always been the party’s Brexit policy.

Labour’s Brexit stance has evolved since the EU referendum in 2016, with the latest development being the party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn announcing that he would remain “neutral” in another referendum campaign.

Here are some of the key questions on the topic.

– What did Labour’s 2017 manifesto say?

Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto said the party would accept the referendum result that the UK would leave the European Union.

However, a year later at the Labour Party conference in 2018, it was overwhelmingly agreed that a fresh public vote would be kept on the table.

– What does Labour’s 2019 manifesto say?

Labour’s manifesto for the upcoming General Election says that the party will renegotiate a new Brexit deal within three months, and hold a referendum on the deal or Remain within six months.

Mr Corbyn’s party would then put their deal to a referendum within six months, where people would have the option to vote between the party’s Brexit plan or remaining in the EU.

– When did Labour move to supporting another EU referendum?

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Tom Watson warned that ‘ambiguity’ over Labour’s Brexit stance had cost them votes at the European Parliament elections in 2019 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Until July 2019 the Labour Party had resisted the idea of supporting another referendum on EU membership.

Then at the party’s conference in September, Labour delegates voted in favour of renegotiating Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal and putting it to another public vote.

The party’s former deputy leader Tom Watson, who resigned earlier this month, had previously warned that “ambiguity” over Labour’s Brexit stance had cost them votes at the European Parliament elections in 2019.

– Why are Labour backing another referendum and not Remain?

At the same party conference, Labour delegates rejected a motion calling for the party to back the Remain cause outright.

This was despite key figures in the party, including shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, supporting the cause.

– What is Jeremy Corbyn’s position?

In an attempt to appeal to both Leavers and Remainers, Mr Corbyn wants to give people the final say.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time leaders’ special on Friday, Mr Corbyn confirmed he would be neutral during another referendum campaign.

He told the studio audience he would not campaign for Leave or Remain so he could “credibly” carry out the wish of the voters.

Mr Corbyn said it was “entirely reasonable” to put the question back to the people as it is the middle ground option between the people who want to stop Brexit, and those who support the Prime Minister’s deal.

Clarifying his position, he added: “I will adopt, if I am prime minister at the time, a neutral stance so I can credibly carry out the results of that to bring our communities and countries together rather than continuing an endless debate.”

– Why is Labour divided on the issue of Brexit?

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John McDonnell said that staying in the EU would be preferable to even a Labour-negotiated Brexit deal (Jacob King/PA)

Many Labour MPs who represent parts of the country which voted to Leave in the 2016 referendum have expressed their unhappiness with the party’s decision to put the question back to the people.

In June 2019, 26 Labour MPs wrote a letter to Mr Corbyn rejecting the idea of another referendum and urging the party to back a Brexit deal.

They said another referendum would be “toxic to our bedrock Labour voters”.

Nineteen Labour MPs representing Leave-voting constituencies also backed Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal last month.

Other Labour figures, including shadow chancellor John McDonnell, have said that staying in the EU would be preferable to even a Labour-negotiated Brexit deal.

The unions have also been divided, with some such as Unite wanting a better Leave deal to be negotiated, and others including the GMB wanting another referendum, and really hoping to Remain.

– What does Labour’s ideal Brexit deal look like?

The party’s new deal would be based on a new UK-EU customs union and a close EU single market alignment.

It means the UK could continue trading with the EU without tariffs being applied.

Due to the customs union element, the UK would not be able to secure deals with other countries, such as the US, on goods – something that can be achieved under Mr Johnson’s deal.

Labour would also ensure EU nationals working and living in the UK have an automatic right to stay after Brexit.

The party has said it believes a new deal could be renegotiated in three months.

PA

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