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Labour Party: UK's opposition will back second Brexit referendum under certain conditions

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By Alice Tidey  with Reuters
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Henry Nicholls   -  

The governing body of Britain's main opposition Labour Party decided today (Tuesday) to back a second Brexit referendum... but only under certain conditions.

Some, like deputy leader Tom Watson, had been pushing for the National Executive Committee (NEC) — which was meeting to formulate its manifesto ahead of European elections next month — to back a fresh vote in all circumstances.

But a Labour source told Euronews the committee had instead decided to only support another referendum if Labour "can’t get the necessary changes to the government’s deal or a General Election".

Labour is currently in its fourth week of talks with Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government to find a compromise and get the UK's EU divorce deal approved by MPs.

The UK is expected to take part in the May 23-26 EU elections after it was granted a second Brexit delay earlier this month.

It is now scheduled to leave the bloc by October 31 at the latest.

A divisive issue

The party has been deeply split over backing a second Brexit vote.

The NEC is made up of leader Jeremy Corbyn, members of his shadow Cabinet, MPs, MEPs and representatives from supporting trade unions.

Leading the charge for a confirmatory vote on any Brexit deal is Watson. He is being supported by shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarty, who told the BBC earlier this month that a second vote could be "the only means of breaking the deadlock", exposing a deep rift in the shadow Cabinet.

At least 100 of the party's MPs, including Phil Wilson and Peter Kyle, who previously drafted an amendment calling for the Withdrawal Agreement to be put to a People's Vote, have also backed Watson's call.

Furthermore, over 20 of the prospective Labour MEPs have already pledged to campaign for a second referendum.

Most criticised Corbyn for his ambiguous stance on the issue, arguing it is driving Remainer voters away from Labour and towards parties which back a second vote.

These include the Independent Group/Change UK, which was formed after eight Labour MPs resigned in protest over the party's Brexit strategy.

No change?

Labour pledged at its conference last year that it would back a second referendum only in the event that the country was heading for a no-deal Brexit or to prevent what it called a "damaging Tory (Conservative) Brexit."

Many MPs tweeted that they supported the outcome of today's vote.