Jeremy Corbyn has told his top team it is “now right” to demand a referendum on “any” Brexit deal.
At a shadow cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the Labour leader reiterated his belief that a fresh public vote should be held on any possible withdrawal agreement with the EU.
He said this should include “real choices” for both Leave and Remain voters, but admitted the nature of any ballot would depend on parliament.
Mr Corbyn will also speak with trade unions next week, after which he has promised to “set out our views to the public”.
His remarks to shadow ministers fall short of wholeheartedly embracing a campaign to stay in the EU and are therefore unlikely to ease the pressure on him to take a more pro-Remain position.
It is still unclear whether Labour would back Remain in a second EU referendum, or what position they would take on a Brexit deal a possible Labour government might agree with the EU.
The shadow cabinet’s discussion was held in the wake of Labour’s drubbing at last month’s European Parliament elections, where they finished third behind the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats.
Senior Labour figures such as shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Tom Watson subsequently argued for the party to take an explicitly pro-Remain position.
Labour’s policy had been to seek a general election, and only push for a second referendum on a Conservative Brexit deal if an election is impossible, or in order to stop a no-deal Brexit.
But signs of an evolution in Labour’s policy came at the end of last month when, on a visit to Ireland, Mr Corbyn said: “We don’t back a re-run of 2016. That happened. That is gone.
“What I do say is that if parliament comes to an agreement, then it’s reasonable, and if parliament wishes it, there should be a public vote on it but that is some way off.”
Mr Corbyn confirmed that position in Wednesday’s shadow cabinet meeting, telling his colleagues: “I have already made the case, on the media and in Dublin, that it is now right to demand that any deal is put to a public vote.
“That is in line with our conference policy which agreed a public vote would be an option.
“A ballot paper would need to contain real choices for both leave and remain voters. This will of course depend on Parliament.
“I want to hear your views, I will be hearing trade union views next week, and then I want to set out our views to the public.”
Mr Corbyn is also under pressure from the other side of Labour’s split on Brexit.
A group of Labour MPs from Leave-supporting areas wrote to Mr Corbyn on Wednesday warning that committing to a second EU referendum would be “toxic” for the party.
Don Valley MP Caroline Flint, one of the signatories of the letter, said: “We believe that seeking a second referendum would be toxic to our bedrock Labour voters and jeopardise our role as a party of the whole nation.
“Rejecting any Brexit in the hope of securing a perfect deal risks the worst outcome – a no-deal Brexit – giving the populist right an even greater platform in our heartlands.”
On rumours of a change in Labour’s Brexit policy to support a second referendum, party chairman Ian Lavery’s Twitter account posted: “I fear it’s correct. But please understand there [sic] position really is to head for to revoking A50 [Article 50].”
Mr Lavery later clarified that his tweet, sent in reply to Sky News’ deputy political editor Sam Coates, was “not authorised by myself or anyone on my team”.
In another Twitter post, he added: “Appropriate security updates have been made and I can assure any Journalists etc. that it was not a tweet I authorised re Brexit position.”
Mr Lavery later said he had had it “confirmed” by Twitter that “someone else logged in to my account, not me or any of my staff” as he posted a screenshot of a “new login” message from the social media company.
A source described Mr Lavery as a “stickler for spelling” and so suggested he wouldn’t have misspelled “there” in his original post.
Responding to Mr Corbyn’s remarks to the shadow cabinet, Change UK MP Chris Leslie – who quit Labour earlier this year – said: “Labour’s reluctance to argue for remaining in the EU is a historic betrayal and Jeremy Corbyn has now run down the clock with his continued contortions.
“Revoking Article 50 is now the only practical route that allows the British people the time and space to have a genuine final say.
“This further round of consultations is nothing more than Jeremy Corbyn playing Labour members for fools.”