"This was a narrow result and one won on a pack of lies and it was only an advisory referendum" -- Richard Corbett MEP
Richard Corbett MEP has just been elected as the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP). With that, he gets a place on Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee.
He is therefore, someone of considerable influence within the party – particularly when it comes to European matters.
The MEP spoke to us about the party’s Brexit policy, and the possibility of a second referendum.
Mr Corbett, like a growing number of people in the Labour Party, is keen to emphasise that Brexit is not final.
Indeed, he is open to the possibility of a second referendum.
“Whilst we’re heading towards a very costly and damaging Tory Brexit, we should keep all of our options open, because we may well have to oppose that Brexit if it’s going to be a complete disaster.
“When the [Brexit] deal comes back to the House of Commons, it’s almost certain that Labour will be voting against that deal.”
But what happens if voters oppose the deal?
“If it’s rejected then you have to have an assessment of what we do now: do we reconsider Brexit?
“If so does that need a second referendum…or a referendum on the deal?
“That’s a bridge you can cross when you come to it.”
Labour, and the country, is in no way bound to last year’s referendum result Mr Corbett seemed to say:
“This was a narrow result and one won on a pack of lies. It was only an advisory referendum.”
Mr Corbett compared the referendum to a general election: “[Some in the Labour party said] no, we don’t give up when we lose a general election. We don’t immediately accept what the Tories want to do in government. We fight on.
“Others said that’s the will of the people, you have to accept it. So there was a range of views, and that’s understandable.”
He continued: “But as time moves on, it’s less about the principle of what we should have done in relation to last year’s referendum, it’s increasingly about how we react to next year’s real Brexit as it emerges and that will be what the Tories manage in the end to negotiate as a Brexit deal.
“And what they are negotiating certainly looks like it will be very damaging to the country.”
Asked whether there were strong rifts on Labour’s NEC over Brexit, Mr Corbett said he had yet to attend a meeting but said: “disagreements would be a strong word. There are nuances and a range of views but we’re not split.”
Mr Corbett’s election to the NEC will be heartening to Labour Remainers, less so to opposing factions in the party who would prefer to keep Labour policy on Brexit off the agenda for as long as possible.
Oscar Webb is a staff writer for Left Foot Forward. He tweets here.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.