Newstalk
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09.09 23 Sep 2018


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Updated 15:45

The British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he'll back a second Brexit referendum if party members vote for it - but stressed he'd prefer a general election.

The annual Labour conference is getting underway in Liverpool this weekend, with Brexit high on the agenda.

It comes only days after Theresa May's Brexit plans - the 'Chequers' proposals - suffered a major setback after key elements were rejected by EU leaders in Salzburg.

The British prime minister has defended the plans, but the situation has highlighted the significant gaps that remain between the two sides as the deadline for a Brexit deal fast approaches.

Amid the ongoing uncertainty, anti-Brexit campaigners have been calling for a vote on whatever final agreement is reached - calls that have been rejected by Mrs May.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly said his party is not calling for a second referendum, but polls have shown growing support for a 'people's vote'.

A recent YouGov poll suggested the party could gain more than 1.5 million voters if it supports the campaign for a second vote.

The proposal has also received the backing of some key unions in the UK.

Labour members are set to consider the second referendum proposal at this week's party conference.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mr Corbyn said: “What comes out of conference I will adhere to. But I’m not calling for a second referendum. I hope we will agree that the best way of resolving this is a general election.

“But I was elected to empower the members of the party. So if conference makes a decision I will not walk away from it and I will act accordingly.”

General election

The Labour leader added that his party is not happy with the Chequers proposals and would vote against them.

With around 40 Conservative rebels also indicating they will vote against Mrs May's Brexit plans in the House of Commons vote on the final deal, such a major parliamentary defeat for the British prime minister could trigger a general election.

"We're ready for it," Mr Corbyn noted.

The UK's Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, however, told BBC the prospect of an autumn general election was 'for the birds'.

He observed: "It's not going to happen. Downing Street has made [that] very clear."

On the subject of the European criticism of the British plans, the Conservative politician said the government has to "hold our nerve, keep our cool and press the EU to be clearer on what their rejections are".

He suggested that there weren't any other 'credible alternatives' being proposed.


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