Two shadow ministers have defied Jeremy Corbyn and thrown their weight behind a second Brexit referendum.
Clive Lewis and Marsha de Cordova also piled pressure on their boss by demanding the party backs a left-wing “remain and reform” agenda to keep Britain in the EU in any fresh poll.
Lewis, shadow Treasury minister, called for centrists on the People’s Vote campaign, including Labour MP Chuka Umunna, to “step aside” so pro-Corbyn voices could connect with working-class Leave voters.
De Cordova, meanwhile, said Labour must distance itself from a “a right-wing, racist Brexit” and win back Brexiteer “hearts and minds”.
Lewis said that, while he supported Labour policy to force a no-confidence motion in Theresa May’s government, there was a “good chance” Tory MPs would refuse to back the general election Corbyn wants.
“A public vote is something that the Labour Party should be getting behind and I am here to talk about the preparations we need to start thinking about to make that happen,” Lewis told campaigners at the ‘Final Say’ event in central London on Monday, organised by Hope Not Hate, the TSSA union and Another Europe Is Possible.
He added: “My message to Chuka and to Anna Soubry and the others who have been making the case for a people’s vote is: You have done what you think is right, well done, but if you do get your way, you need to step aside and make way for those who can communicate with the very people that we need to convince.”
This campaign, if it should fall upon us, for a public vote, it needs to have less Tories, less men, less Londoners, more northerners, more women, more diversity and more of the left.Shadow Treasury minister, Clive Lewis
He also called for a “more diverse” pro-EU drive.
“This campaign, if it should fall upon us, for a public vote, it needs to have less Tories, less men, less Londoners, more northerners, more women, more diversity and more of the left,” he said.
Labour’s current position is to seek a general election and, if it fails, to keep “all options” on the table, meaning support for a second poll is not a done deal.
Lewis said he did not want to get sacked by going off-script and hinted the second referendum campaign could pave the way for Labour victory at the general election - due to take place in 2022 - by demanding left-behind towns get “a new deal”.
“It isn’t just about remain and reform of the EU, it is about reform of the UK and about the new kind of deal we will offer to this country under the next Labour Government and what difference it will make to their communities,” he said.
De Cordova, meanwhile, also backed a second referendum and said she was at the event to “show solidarity”.
“What we are facing now is a right-wing, racist Brexit from this Tory government and we cannot in any way stand in line with that,” the shadow minister for disabled people said. “We really have to reject that.
“My position on all of this is I would like to see this go back to the public and I ultimately believe we can change hearts and minds.”
It comes as speculation mounts that Labour is preparing to table a vote of no-confidence in the government after, as seems inevitable, Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected by MPs on Tuesday.
Jeremy Corbyn warned the prime minister has “completely and utterly failed” to ease MPs’ concerns and, once the Withdrawal Agreement is voted down, May will have until Monday to table an alternative plan.
Calls from Labour members - the vast majority of which are pro-remain - have been intensifying for Corbyn to back a so-called people’s vote as they anticipate Tory MPs will not back a new election.
The MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle, normally a staunch ally of the Labour leadership, also piled pressure on Corbyn by coming out in favour of a re-run.
Let’s not fall into the trap of saying the EU is some undemocratic body. What else would we go to? We would go to the World Trade Organisation, which is far less democratic.Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle
He told those gathered that parliament was “edging closer every day to having to put this question back to the people” and the left “need to start developing a rhetoric”.
“There is no good Brexit, it doesn’t exist,” he said. “There is no way of getting a Brexit that doesn’t harm our country, not only economically but culturally and also our fundamental politics.”
Russell-Moyle also framed how a left-wing pro-EU might oppose those demanding a no-deal Brexit - an option which could appear on any future ballot paper.
He added: “Let’s not fall into the trap of saying the EU is some undemocratic body.
“What else would we go to? We would go to the World Trade Organisation, which is far less democratic. Or we go to bilateral agreements and CETA, which are far less democratic.
“The only way you can have a democratic trading policy and a democratic migration policy and democratically deal with climate change is with a body that the people democratically elect people to - and we can win those arguments.”