A second referendum ballot paper would need to contain “real choices” for Leave and Remain voters, Jeremy Corbyn has said, after he was warned that backing another poll would be “toxic” to the bedrock of the party’s supporters.
The Labour leader reiterated his belief that any Brexit deal should be put to a public vote, despite 26 of his own MPs in mainly pro-Leave seats writing to him to urge that he puts the “national interest first” and backs a deal before October 31.
Mr Corbyn told the shadow cabinet on Wednesday afternoon: “We have committed to respecting the result of the referendum, and have strongly made the case for an alternative plan for Brexit as the only serious deal that could potentially command the support of the House.
“At Conference last year we passed our policy, the members’ policy. Over the past nine months, I have stuck faithfully to it.
“A no-deal Brexit would plunge us into the worst excesses of disaster capitalism and trash our economy on the back of fantasy Tory trade deals or worse, very real and very damaging trade deals with Donald Trump, opening up our NHS to American companies.”
He continued: “I have already made the case, on the media and in Dublin, that it is now right to demand that any deal is put to a public vote. That is in line with our conference policy which agreed a public vote would be an option.
“A ballot paper would need to contain real choices for both Leave and Remain voters. This will of course depend on Parliament. I want to hear your views, I will be hearing trade union views next week, and then I want to set out our views to the public.”
Rother Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron, Don Valley’s Caroline Flint and Rotherham’s Sarah Champion were among the signatories to the letter to Mr Corbyn, which said Labour support for a second referendum risked driving a wedge between traditional voters and the party.
They also warned that a no-deal Brexit would “alienate” many who supported the party at the last general election.
The letter follows poor results for the party in the European and local elections, and a narrow victory in the Peterborough by-election.
They wrote: “A commitment to a second referendum would be toxic to our bedrock Labour voters, driving a wedge between them and our party, jeopardising our role as a party of the whole nation, and giving the populist right an even greater platform in our heartlands.
“Labour has a vital role to play fighting for a Brexit for the many, not the few. But this is a battle best fought in stage two, after the UK has left.
“Rejecting any Brexit in the hope of securing a perfect deal risks the worst outcome – a no-deal Brexit. This would further alienate many who backed Labour in 2017.
“We urge the party to put the national interest first, to back a deal before October 31.”
It comes after reports that Mr Corbyn may change his party’s Brexit policy and support a second referendum in all circumstances.
However, a Labour Party spokesman said: “As Jeremy said after the EU election results, he’s engaging in a process of consultation on our Brexit position and that will continue this afternoon at shadow cabinet.”