Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire from his own party after he put forward a policy document that would see Labour fight a general election without a clear stance on Brexit.
Under Corbyn’s plan, submitted to Labour’s National Executive Committee ahead of the annual party conference in Brighton, Labour would reach a deal with Brussels in three months which would then be put to a referendum three months later.
However, the party would only decide whether to back Brexit or Remain in a special conference after an election.
Corbyn has now come under pressure from several Labour figures, including shadow Treasury secretary Clive Minister who branded the plan ‘plain wrong’.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle described the proposal as a ‘stitch-up’, while former leadership candidate Owen Smith said it would be ‘dishonest’.
Meanwhile, Corbyn ally and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry called on Labour to lead the Remain campaign.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire after he submitted a plan for the party to remain neutral on Brexit during a potential election
Several Labour activists and MPs have called on the party to lead a Remain campaign – with Corbyn’s plan triggering fury
Corbyn’s plan – which hasn’t been signed off yet – also suggested that Labour could negotiate a deal with the EU within three months
The leadership’s proposal is markedly different to Ms Thornberry’s statement, who said today: ‘We’re not going to let it happen that we crash out of Europe without a deal.
‘We must make sure that there is a second referendum and Remain is on the ballot paper and Labour campaigns for Remain – and not just that, Labour should lead the campaign.’
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer also said he’d support remaining in the EU.
Scores of motions have been submitted to the party conference calling for Labour to back remain, and campaigners fear the NEC statement – which has yet to be signed off – will shut down debate on the issue.
At the start of the conference in Brighton, shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis said: ‘This move is just plain wrong. How can this be defended?
‘We, the left, took over the leadership of this party promising internal democracy, promising a new kind of politics.
‘And yet here we are, with a leadership apparently determined to shut down democratic debate on the crucial issue of the day, probably relying on union bloc votes to outvote the members.
‘It’s not what we signed up for. We now need to rally on the conference floor – if it passes, delegates should mobilise to vote against the NEC statement so the Brexit motions can be heard and democratically debated.’
Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry speaks during a People’s Vote rally in Brighton today
Labour shadow cabinet members Barry Gardiner, Richard Burgon, Andy McDonald, Dan Carden, Cat smith, John McDonnell and Dawn Butler at the opening of conference
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: ‘We are being hammered on the doorstep because our Brexit position is a fudge.
‘Yes, it’s great that we are putting forward a public vote and a remain option.
‘But in every seat in the country, Leave and Remain, we are losing votes because our voters are turning to Remain parties.
Tom Watson slams failed ‘drive-by shooting’ bid to oust him as Labour’s deputy leader
Tom Watson has described the attempt to remove him as deputy leader of the Labour party as a ‘drive-by shooting’.
At a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee last night, Momentum founder Jon Lansman proposed a motion to abolish the post of deputy leader, currently held by Watson, citing his disloyalty over Brexit.
Labour party deputy leader Tom Watson (pictured) arrives for the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in East Sussex today
The move shocked many in the party with former leader Tony Blair blasting it as ‘undemocratic and politically dangerous’.
The motion was withdrawn this morning after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn submitted an alternative proposal which will see the post of deputy leader ‘reviewed’ instead.
Watson admits that he had no prior warning of the motion and said he wasn’t given an opportunity to defend himself.
‘This conference is our one chance before an election to get out of the fudge – we cannot allow that to be taken away from us in some procedural stitch-up.’
Former leadership contender Owen Smith said: ‘Is the NEC seriously saying that Labour should go into a general election saying we’ll have another referendum on Brexit, but we’re not telling the electorate which way we’ll vote in that referendum?
‘That would be the antithesis of ‘honest politics’.’
Michael Chessum, national organiser for the Another Europe is Possible campaign group, said: ‘Introducing an NEC statement in this manner would be a bare-faced attempt to shut down a democratic debate on Brexit at conference.
‘The idea that Labour would not take a position now, and put it off to a special conference just after an election, is absurd.
‘We have a conference, right here and right now, which has had a huge wave of grassroots motions submitted to it on Brexit.’
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, addressing a People’s Vote rally in Brighton, said a second referendum is the ‘only way out’ of the current impasse and that he would support remaining in the EU.
‘I have to admit that a year or so ago I wasn’t sure that a referendum was the right way out – but now I’m utterly convinced it’s the only way out.
‘We’ve been trying in Parliament to sort this out, we’ve had three years where we’ve tried to sort this out and we can’t, and therefore it’s got to go back to the public. We’ve got to hear what people have to say about this.
‘When that time comes, I will campaign for Remain alongside millions of other people in this country, because it’s not just a technical question of whether you want to be in or out of the EU, it’s about what sort of country you want to be.’
The draft NEC statement said: ‘After three years of shambolic Tory negotiations and parliamentary deadlock, a Labour government will get Brexit sorted one way or another within six months of coming to power, allowing us to concentrate on all the issues that matter to people most.’
Clive Lewis, the Labour shadow Treasury minister, has slammed the proposal and accused the leadership of shutting down democratic debate
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle also slammed the proposal and said: ‘We are being hammered on the doorstep because our Brexit position is a fudge’
A draft document highlighting Labour policy on Brexit suggests that the party will not campaign for or against leaving the EU while fighting a general election
Jeremy Corbyn is mobbed by the press as her arrives for the annual Labour Party conference today, held in Brighton
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn and Brighton Council leader, Nancy Platt walk with young party members along Brighton Promenade ahead of the conference
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: ‘It is totally unfair of Labour not to be clear about their plan in government.
‘Through choosing whether to support leave or remain after the election, millions of remain Labour supporters could help elect a leave government.’
Tory chairman James Cleverly said: ‘Corbyn’s Brexit policy can be summed up in three simple words: more pointless delay.
‘Jeremy Corbyn can’t lead his own party, let alone the country, and he couldn’t negotiate his way out of a wet paper bag.’
On the eve of the conference, Mr Corbyn defended his position on Brexit.
‘I am not sitting on the fence,’ he told ITV Yorkshire.
‘I think leadership comes from listening. I think leadership comes from asking people to look at the realities of the situation.
‘It is not a muddled position. It is a position that takes the issue seriously.’