A group of 25 backbenchers have written to Jeremy Corbyn, warning him against insisting on a second referendum in any Brexit compromise deal he agrees with Theresa May.
The MPs, almost all of whom represent areas which voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, urge their leader to go the “extra step” to secure an agreement with the prime minister.
In the letter, they remind Mr Corbyn that he has told Mrs May that he would support a “sensible deal” which included a “a customs union and no hard border in Ireland”, protected jobs and workers, environmental and consumer standards.
“We believe you are close to achieving that in the coming days,” the signatories say.
“At the general election, we were clear about respecting the 2016 vote, and about securing those Labour goals.
“Therefore, we feel if compromise is necessary to achieve this deal and avoid fighting the European elections, we should go the extra step to secure this.”
Mrs May and Mr Corbyn held a first round of talks on Wednesday, with both sides describing the meeting as “constructive”.
Negotiating teams were in another set of discussions on Thursday, as the search for a consensus continues ahead of a crucial EU summit next week.
Arriving for the talks, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer confirmed that a “confirmatory” referendum would be among the topics being discussed.
But the 25 Labour MPs say such a course could prove ruinous for the party.
“Delaying for many months in the hope of a second referendum will simply divide the country further and add uncertainty for business,” they say.
“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.”
The signatories are:
:: Mike Amesbury;
:: Sir Kevin Barron;
:: Ronnie Campbell;
:: Sarah Champion;
:: Rosie Cooper;
:: John Cruddas;
:: Gloria De Piero;
:: Rt Hon Caroline Flint;
:: Yvonne Fovargue;
:: Mike Hill;
:: Mike Kane;
:: Emma Lewell-Buck;
:: Justin Madders;
:: Liz McInnes;
:: Jim McMahon;
:: Ian Mearns;
:: Grahame Morris;
:: Lisa Nandy;
:: Melanie Onn;
:: Stephanie Peacock;
:: Jo Platt;
:: Dennis Skinner;
:: Ruth Smeeth;
:: Laura Smith;
:: Gareth Snell.
The letter highlights the differing views within the party on the question of a second referendum.
Labour’s policy on the issue is that a public vote should be kept on the table as option to avoid a “damaging Tory Brexit” or no-deal.
It is not clear what happens to this policy in the event that Mr Corbyn strikes a compromise deal with the prime minister.
Frontbencher Emily Thornberry has made it clear she wants there to be a public vote on any deal that is approved by parliament.
The shadow foreign secretary has written to shadow cabinet colleagues calling for a second referendum on any deal.
“If we look like reaching any other decision than confirmatory vote that would be in breach of the decision made unanimously by conference in Liverpool and overwhelmingly supported by our members and it needs to be put to a vote by the shadow cabinet,” her letter said.
She added that if there was a vote “can I – in writing – confirm that my votes are that yes, any deal agreed by parliament must be subject to a confirmatory public vote, and yes, the other option on the ballot must be remain”.
Deputy leader Tom Watson has said: “I don’t think our party would forgive us if we were to sign off on a Tory Brexit without that kind of concession.”
But their shadow cabinet colleague Rebecca Long-Bailey appears to be more lukewarm on the prospect.
She told Sky News on Wednesday: “If we get exactly what we want and we get a good strong deal then I would struggle to find a reason to put that to a public vote.”