Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit vision rejected by MPs

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The House of Commons has emphatically rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit vision by a margin of 240 votes to 323.

The 83-vote defeat will place immense pressure on the Labour leader to throw his party’s full weight behind demands for a second referendum on EU withdrawal.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaving the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. Pic by Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaving the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. Pic by Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Mr Corbyn told Labour MPs on Monday that he was ready to support moves to demand a public vote “to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country”.

Theresa May’s dramatic announcement on Tuesday that she would allow MPs to vote on delaying the UK’s EU withdrawal beyond March 29 took the sting out of an evening of Brext votes which had been expected to feature a number of ministerial resignations.

Any Conservative bust-ups have now been delayed for up to two weeks, as Mrs May prepares to bring her Withdrawal Agreement back to the Commons for a “meaningful vote” on March 12.

If she fails to overturn the 230-vote mauling the Agreement received in January, votes will be held on the following days on blocking a no-deal Brexit on March 29 and extending the two-year Article 50 negotiation process.

Mrs May’s U-turn threw a spotlight on the Labour leader, whose “constructive ambiguity” on Brexit has long frustrated those in his party who back a so-called People’s Vote and played a part in the defection of eight MPs to the new Independent Group last week.

Labour’s annual conference voted to keep a second referendum on the table, but made clear that the party’s priority was an early election to allow it to implement its Brexit plan for a customs union with a UK say, close ties with the single market and dynamic alignment with EU workplace and environmental regulations.

Speaking to MPs on Monday, Mr Corbyn said that Labour would put forward its plans in an amendment to the Government’s Brexit motion, but was also committed to “putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country”.

A briefing note to Labour MPs made clear the party would back the inclusion of Remaining in the EU on the ballot paper, as an alternative to a “credible Leave option”, but would not back no-deal being a choice on offer.

Mr Corbyn failed to back a referendum amendment tabled by Independent Group MP Anna Soubry, which was not selected for debate on Wednesday by Speaker John Bercow.

But anti-Brexit campaigners will hope that he will now give his full support to the People’s Vote cause.