Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has played down the prospect of the party offering a second referendum on the Brexit deal, after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan suggested it was “possible” it might be included in the next Labour manifesto. And in comments which may dismay Labour supporters of EU membership, the party leader said that he saw “positives” in Brexit.
In a round of TV interviews at Labour's annual conference in Brighton, Mr Corbyn dismissed as “nonsense” the suggestion that he had tried to quash debate of Brexit, pointing to Monday’s vote in favor of a statement setting out the party’s position on EU withdrawal.
Mr Khan told the Evening Standard he would press for a commitment to a second national vote on whether to accept the Brexit deal or stay in the EU, and said it was “possible” the idea might make it into the manifesto.
And former Labour leader in Scotland Kezia Dugdale said that “we the people should take back control with a final vote on the deal”.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Corbyn stressed that Labour had always made clear it accepted and respected the result of last year’s referendum to leave the EU. He said: “We are not planning any referendum. Sadiq is obviously thinking through all scenarios and possibilities.”
“He represents a city which overwhelmingly voted for Remain. As you know, the referendum result across the country was a majority to leave.”
Asked on Five News whether he saw any opportunities for Britain from EU withdrawal, Mr Corbyn said: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is all going to be positive. It is going to be difficult and complicated. But there are positives there.”
EU withdrawal would allow powers to be devolved from Brussels to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and English regions, he said.
He has previously suggested that Brexit will also give him a freer hand to pursue the program of nationalization and support for industry envisaged in Labor’s manifesto.
Mr Corbyn said he was determined to seek a Brexit that was good for jobs and permitted continued access to the single market, rather than the vision which he said some Conservatives have of a deregulated and low tax haven off the shores of Europe.
“We have to maintain tariff-free access to the EU markets,” said Mr Corbyn. “We have to maintain our economic relationship with the EU.”
Mr Corbyn’s claim that staying in the European single market would prevent him from pursuing his radical program was dismissed as a “myth” by prominent Labour Europhile Chuka Umunna.
Mr Umunna denounced as “ridiculous” the move to block delegates at Labor's Brighton conference from voting on a motion to keep the UK permanently in the single market.
In a TV interview on Sunday, Mr Corbyn made clear that he would resist pressure to commit Labour to single market membership after Brexit, as a group of 30 senior party figures including Mr Umunna are demanding.