POLITICS
13/09/2019 13:03 BST | Updated 13/09/2019 13:14 BST

Jeremy Corbyn Under Renewed Pressure To Back Remain At Labour Conference

As many as 61 anti-Brexit motions demanding party revoke Article 50 in face of no-deal.

Jeremy Corbyn will come under intense pressure to back Remain from the Labour’s pro-EU grassroots with members set to flood the party’s conference with official demands. 

As many as 61 anti-Brexit motions, which call for Labour to revoke Article 50 in the face of no-deal, will be heard and debated when delegates gather at Brighton later this month. 

The motions ask for Labour to “campaign energetically” for a Remain in any second referendum on a platform of EU reform and to “defend free movement and extend migrants’ rights”. 

It is a headache for the Labour leader, who within weeks could be fighting a snap general election in which he will face a battle to hang on to both Remain and Leave voters. 

Labour’s current position is for Corbyn to strike a new Brexit deal and put it to the people in a second vote, with the frontbench deciding what position to take after the renegotiation. 

But a huge chunk of the party’s rank and file want Labour to abandon that position and to take an outright anti-Brexit stance. 

It comes after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry have gone on record to say they would campaign for Remain in a second referendum. 

But several members of the shadow cabinet fearful of a backlash from Brexit voters are pushing back against the shift. 

Deputy Leader Tom Watson also increased the tensions at the top of the party when he this week called for Labour to block a general election and press for a second referendum first. 

Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis, who backs the conference motion, drafted by the campaign group Another Europe is Possible, Labour for a Socialist Europe and Open Labour, said members would be boosted by Corbyn pressing hard for Remain. 

He said: “As an MP, I know what wins elections for Labour - it’s our members, who are more than 90% in favour of Remain.

“Our army of volunteers aren’t just footsoldiers, they’re members of a democratic movement. They need to feel ownership over our Brexit policy, they need to be excited and enthused by it.

“Yes, the people should have the final say, but for our morale we need a clear anti-Brexit position in Labour. That means we must campaign in any public vote for Remain.” 

Ana Oppenheim, from Another Europe is Possible, said the group had been organising members since June.

“The strength of anti-Brexit feeling at the grassroots of the labour movement is uncontainable, and is growing,” she said, adding there was “no way” pro-Remain delegates “will accept a slightly-better fudge” on Brexit policy thrashed out by union chiefs and shadow ministers. 

She said: “We will take a Remain position to a vote on conference floor.”

Ruth Cashman, a Unison branch secretary, added: “Anyone who doesn’t want to back Remain - including union general secretaries and front bench politicians - should be free to go with their conscience. But we need to be clear with our members and our voters where we, as a party, stand. Labour opposes Brexit, and we want to remain in the EU. That is the overwhelming view of our members.” 

Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said Labour cannot “move on” until Brexit is sorted.

He said: “The public wants this to be over - any sense that we are going to engage in a lengthy renegotiation will be deeply unpopular. In government, Brexit would be an albatross around our necks - a pointless loss of time and energy, probably a loss of rights and protections and a fracturing of our support base.”