POLITICS
28/04/2019 21:00 BST | Updated 29/04/2019 08:54 BST

Labour MEP Candidates Make Personal Pledge To Back Second Referendum

Party's leader and deputy leader in the European Parliament back plan ahead of crucial manifesto meeting.

Labour MEP candidates have signed a personal pledge to campaign for a second Brexit referendum and back remaining in the EU, amid an internal party row over its position on a public vote.

The list of 22 candidates includes Richard Corbett and Seb Dance, the current leader and deputy leader of the party in the European Parliament.

The promise reads: “If elected to be a Labour Member of the European Parliament (MEP), I pledge to:

1. Campaign to give the people the final say, with a referendum that offers a choice between a Brexit deal and the option to Remain in the EU

2. Campaign to Remain in the referendum.”

Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will decide on Tuesday whether the party’s manifesto for the European elections in May will commit the party to a referendum.

Senior party figures, including Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner and Shadow Business Secretary Rebeca Long-Bailey on Sunday suggested the party would only support a referendum as an alternative to a no-deal or a deal promoted by the Conservative Party.

But many Labour MPs and members want any deal, even one favoured by the Labour leadership, to be put back to the public.

The issue is incredibly divisive within the Labour hierarchy, with splits in the shadow cabinet over whether to campaign for another referendum amid fears it could torpedo the party’s election chances in Brexit-voting former industrial heartlands.

Jackie Jones, the lead candidate for the Labour Party in Wales, said a “confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal, with the option of staying as an EU member must be on the ballot paper”.

She added Wales needed a ”clear chance to support Labour and Remain in these elections”.

Andrew Lewin, the founder of the Remain Labour group, said the “overwhelming” majority of Labour members and voters want to Remain in the EU.

“Remain voters across the country who want to defeat Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party can now vote with confidence and enthusiasm for Labour candidates who have pledged to fight for our future, as members of the European Union,” he said.

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, added to the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday when he called for party members to petition members of the NEC.

“Please let your reps on the NEC know if you want them to support a confirmatory ballot on a brexit deal in our euro manifesto,” he tweeted.

It comes after HuffPost UK revealed the party had produced a European election leaflet which contained no mention of a referendum, to the fury of many party activists.

A group of 89 MPs and MEPs have already demanded a referendum be included in the manifesto.

Talks on finding a consensus on Brexit between the Tories and Labour are set to resume this week.

The government is desperate to pass a deal through parliament and take the UK out of the EU to avoid having to hold the MEP elections on May 23.

The sitting Labour MEP’s who have signed the pledge are: Alex Mayer (East of England), Seb Dance (London), Jude Kirton-Darling (North East), Paul Brannen (North East), Theresa Griffin (North West), Julie Ward (North West), Wajid Khan (North West), David Martin (Scotland), John Howarth (South East), Clare Moody (South West), Sion Simon (West Midlands) and Richard Corbett (Yorkshire & the Humber)

While the MEP candidates who have also put their names to it are: Anna Smith (East of England), James Beckles (London), Amy Fowler (South East), Rohit Dasgupta (South East), Duncan Enright (South East), Andrew Adonis (South West), Jackie Jones (Wales), Matthew Dorrance (Wales), Mary Wimbury (Wales) and Mark Whitcutt (Wales).

PA Wire/PA Images