Brexit: Tom Watson urges public vote to ‘solve national crisis’

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Labour’s Tom Watson said about 80% of Labour MPs backed a so-called “confirmatory ballot”

A public vote on any Brexit deal could “solve the national crisis” in the UK, Labour’s deputy leader has said.

Tom Watson said he was a “reluctant convert” to a confirmatory ballot but if MPs “failed” to do their job, the public could make the final call.

Talks between Labour and the Tories on finding a way forward on Brexit are entering their third day.

He suggested Labour MPs would find it “a bit difficult” to accept any outcome which excluded a referendum option.

He also revealed that Labour has opened nominations for European elections to make sure the party was prepared if the polls do go ahead on 23 May.

Theresa May announced earlier this week that she wanted to hold discussions with Jeremy Corbyn in order to find a proposal to put to MPs ahead of an emergency EU summit on 10 April.

On a visit to Wales to celebrate Labour’s victory in the Newport West by-election, Mr Corbyn said the issue of another referendum was still “in the mix”, but Parliament had twice discussed and rejected the idea.

If a proposal is passed, and agreed by the EU, it would stop the UK leaving the bloc on the 12 April with no deal.

Mrs May has now written to European council President Donald Tusk to ask for an extension until 30 June – but said she still hopes to leave before 23 May so the UK does not have to take part in European elections taking place that month.

‘Divide country further’

Labour agreed a policy at its last conference that if Parliament voted down the government’s deal or talks end in no deal, there should be a general election.

But if they cannot force one – Labour’s attempt to call a no confidence vote in January failed – then the party “must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”.

There is opposition to another referendum within Labour, with nine shadow cabinet members believed to remain sceptical and 25 Labour backbenchers writing to Mr Corbyn on Thursday, urging him to rule it out.

They wrote: “Delaying for many months in the hope of a second referendum will simply divide the country further and add uncertainty for business.

“A second referendum would be exploited by the far right, damage the trust of many core Labour voters and reduce our chances of winning a general election.”

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