Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that Labour will back a second referendum on any Brexit deal put to parliament, but warned of a deliberately inflamed divide as he sought to calm tempers among senior party figures.
The Labour leader, who is visiting Dublin to meet Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday, said his party would do whatever is necessary to stop a disastrous no-deal outcome and said Labour would work across party lines to block a new Brexiter prime minister who could crash the UK out of the EU.
Faced with the threat of no deal and a prime minister with no mandate, the only way out of the Brexit crisis ripping our country apart is now to go back to the people, he said, speaking ahead of his visit to Ireland.
Let the people decide the country’s future, either in a general election or through a public vote on any deal agreed by parliament. For Labour any outcome has to work for our whole country, not just one side of this deliberately inflamed divide.
A bitter row has raged in the party’s top echelons about the response to the European election, which saw the party pushed into third place behind the Brexit party and the Liberal Democrats, a result blamed on the party’s unclear Brexit position.
Two of Corbyn’s closest allies, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, publicly said they fully supported a second referendum. Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, and Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, have also said they would back Labour arguing for a people’s vote.
Tom Watson, the deputy leader, has been even more strident, saying he supports the idea of a ballot of all members or a special conference to immediately change policy to back a second referendum.
On Wednesday, Watson released a poll of Labour members and supporters taken from a survey he launched after the election results, suggesting 84% wanted an all-member ballot to decide the party’s Brexit policy. As deputy leader I’ll support them to make this happen, he tweeted.
Further pressure has come from both Scottish and Welsh Labour, with leaders of both saying they are now firmly committed to a second referendum in any circumstances.