If elected, a Labour government would call a fresh Brexit vote within six months, the party has announced.
Members of Britain’s Labour Party have voted in favour of leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit stance, backing his bid to hold an election before deciding whether to campaign to remain in or to leave the European Union in a new referendum.
In a show of hands, Labour voted in favour of Corbyn’s approach on Monday, gifting the leader a victory in the “civil war” that has threatened to tear the party apart during its annual conference in Brighton on England’s southern coast.
The Labour leader, a long-term Eurosceptic in a largely pro-Europe party, has remained neutral on Brexit, promising that any government he leads would negotiate a new withdrawal agreement, which would then be put to the British people.
With factional infighting dominating the opening days of the conference, the vote will be seen as a measure of confidence in Corbyn’s leadership.
In chaotic scenes, the conference then rejected – also by show of hands rather than fully counted card vote – a motion named Composite 13 which would have called on Labour to come out in support of Remain now, rather than waiting until a policy was decided by a special conference after winning a general election.
Wendy Nichols, chairing the afternoon session of the conference, said there was disagreement in the group on stage looking at proceedings.
As delegates cast their votes, Nichols could be seen having a discussion with Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby.
Announcing the result, Nichols said: “Sorry I thought it was one way… and Jenny said something else, so … yes, that was lost.”
It means that the UK’s main opposition party will face the general election widely expected in the coming months without an unambiguous position on whether it wants to stay in or leave the European Union.
Supporters say this is to appeal to both pro and anti-Europe voters, uniting them behind an anti-austerity agenda.
“I’m shocked,” tweeted Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party’s spokesperson on Brexit.
“How can they go into a general election sitting on the fence on the most important issue of our time? And how can they abandon working people whose livelihoods will be decimated by Brexit?”
In advance of the crunch vote, shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who backs Remain, confirmed that a Labour government would legislate immediately for a referendum, which would be held within six months of taking office.
“If you want a referendum, vote Labour. If you want a final say on Brexit, vote Labour,” he told the conference.
“If you want to fight for Remain, vote Labour.”
Johnson, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, refused to say whether he would resign if the UK’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that he had suspended parliament unlawfully.
“I’m going to wait and see what the judgment is,” he told the BBC. “It takes a lot to make me nervous these days.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES