Corbyn pledges to campaign for Remain if next PM calls a second Brexit referendum
Britain's Labour Party said yesterday that the country's soon-to-be chosen new prime minister should hold a second Brexit referendum, as the two contenders for the job prepared to face a grilling in a TV debate last night.
In a significant shift, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party would campaign to stay in the EU if a referendum were called by whoever succeeds Theresa May.
Mrs May announced her resignation last month after failing to get the UK parliament to back her divorce deal with the EU.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are competing to replace Mrs May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.
The winner is due to take office later this month and will have barely more than three months to win support for a Brexit deal before the scheduled October 31 departure date.
In a letter to party members, Mr Corbyn said that the new prime minister "should have the confidence to put their deal, or no deal, back to the people in a public vote".
"In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either no deal or a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs," he said.
Labour's opponents - and many supporters - have accused the party of dithering over Brexit for fear of alienating voters on either side of the national divide over Europe.
Mr Corbyn, a longtime critic of the EU, has resisted calls for a second referendum, saying Labour must respect voters' 2016 decision to leave.
The party has previously rejected Mrs May's deal, but also ruled out leaving the EU without an agreement and called instead for an election that the party hopes will bring it to power.
But a poor showing in recent local and European elections suggests Labour is losing support to parties, including the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, that advocate remaining in the EU.
Mr Corbyn's letter clarifies the party's position - up to a point. It's still unclear what Labour would do about Brexit if it formed a government.
Party member Hilary Benn, who heads parliament's Brexit Committee, said "this is a very significant moment".
"We saw what a lack of clarity did to Labour in the European elections. We got 14pc of the vote," he said.
But fellow Labour MP John Mann, who backs Brexit, said the shift would cost the party support in areas of the country that voted strongly to leave the EU.
"There's no indication whatsoever that voters in my area... have changed their mind," he said.
"I've asked repeatedly of Jeremy Corbyn, what will be Labour's policy at a general election? I haven't been clear and I'm not clear now."