Real ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit would be general election – McDonnell

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Labour is set for a “rumbustious” row over Brexit policy after pro-EU activists’ hopes of the party throwing its weight behind a second referendum suffered a major setback.

More than 100 constituency parties submitted motions demanding a second referendum and thousands of people joined a march calling for a so-called People’s Vote in order to put pressure on Jeremy Corbyn and the party to change course.

But the exact wording of the motion to be put to a vote at the party’s conference on Tuesday states only that “if we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”.

John McDonnell
John McDonnell said ‘the real people’s vote would be a general election’ (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the “real people’s vote” would be a general election.

And he indicated that even if the decision on the EU was put to the public in a referendum, the choice would be between accepting a deal or returning to the negotiating table rather than the option of remaining inside the bloc.

On ITV’s Good Morning Britain he said: “What will be put to conference is what I’ve been arguing for for quite a bit – that we respect the referendum, of course we do, but we want a general election.

“We think the real people’s vote would be a general election.

“But when Theresa May comes back with a supposed deal, we’ll see what she comes back with, we’ll put it against the tests we have advocated, the main test is about protecting jobs and the economy.

“If it doesn’t meet those tests, yes, we want a general election, but we will keep the option of a people’s vote on the table just in case.”

He acknowledged the debate “may be rumbustious” but said the chance of a general election would offer the opportunity to change the team carrying out the negotiations with Brussels, replacing Theresa May and her ministers.

Pro-EU activists marched to demand a fresh referendum as Labour held its conference in Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)
Pro-EU activists marched to demand a fresh referendum as Labour held its conference in Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

A People’s Vote campaign spokesman said the conference motion was “clear movement” towards adopting a referendum.

“The leadership knows where the members are and they know where their voters are.

“And the voices demanding a democratic final say on the outcome of Brexit negotiations are only going to get louder in the weeks to come as the gap between what was promised two years ago and reality gets wider.”

The spokesman added: “If this motion is passed by delegates on Tuesday, it will show that Labour now also recognises that if an election is not possible, it will have no real option but a People’s Vote.

“There are no other options available short of crashing out or relying on the EU to grant the government extra time to renegotiate.”

The leader of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, Eloise Todd, said: “This is a welcome step forward for the party and it also reflects the huge shift in the country as more people than ever, particularly Labour voters, want to stay in the EU.

“Labour voters deserve to have their voices heard and be given a real choice on the Brexit deal.”

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