Jeremy Corbyn has set out the conditions under which Labour could back a second EU referendum – as he faced further pressure to support a fresh public vote.
If the UK was facing the “potential disaster” of a “no-deal” Brexit then Labour would look at the option of a second referendum, Mr Corbyn said during a speech in Hastings on Thursday.
However, the Labour leader stressed the party would still prioritise trying to secure a general election or achieve a Brexit deal on the terms they have demanded.
Mr Corbyn’s comments frustrated those MPs who want Labour to back a second referendum now, as they noted how the government’s survival of a no-confidence vote on Wednesday night had seen the chances of a general election diminish.
During his speech, Mr Corbyn described the prime minister’s Brexit deal – which was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs this week – as “dead” and that “there can now be no question of tweaks or sweeteners from Brussels to bring it back to life”.
The Labour leader said the “best outcome” for the UK remains a general election as he raised the prospect of tabling a fresh no-confidence motion in the government, despite Mrs May winning Wednesday’s vote.
“We will come back with it again if necessary,” he said.
On the prospect of a second EU referendum, Mr Corbyn reiterated that “all options are on the table” for Labour and “given the severity of the crisis, it would be wrong to rule any of them out”.
He added: “If the government remains intransigent, if support for Labour’s alternative is blocked for party advantage – and the country is facing the potential disaster of no deal – our duty will then be to look at other options which we’ve set out in our conference motion, including the option of a public vote.”
Labour MP Luciana Berger, who supports the People’s Vote campaign for a second EU referendum, warned Mr Corbyn not to hesitate in giving his backing to a public ballot.
She said: “After the vote of confidence was defeated, we now know a general election is off the table and any chance of Labour negotiating its own Brexit deal has gone.
“Labour needs to decide to follow its democratically-agreed conference policy of campaigning for a new public vote.
“If it instead backs some version of a Brexit deal which is worse than the deal we already have inside the EU and would leave the country worse off, it risks losing millions of supporters and alienating a whole generation of young voters.”
A YouGov poll, conducted on behalf of the People’s Vote campaign and published on Wednesday, revealed support for a second EU referendum among Labour supporters is now at 78%.
Among all voters, the survey showed a 12-point lead for staying in the EU, with Remain backed by 56% and Leave by 44%.
Mr Corbyn was also criticised by Labour MPs for refusing to take up the prime minister’s offer of cross-party talks in an attempt to break the Brexit deadlock in parliament.
The Labour leader, who branded Mrs May’s offer a “stunt”, is refusing to meet Mrs May until she rules out a no-deal Brexit.
He also used a letter to all Labour MPs to urge them to “refrain from engagement with the government” until such a condition had been met.
However, senior Labour MPs Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper – who both chair House of Commons committees – did meet Mrs May in Downing Street on Wednesday.
Labour MP Graham Stringer, a Brexiteer but who voted against the PM’s deal this week, disagreed with Mr Corbyn’s stance.
He told Sky News: “Jeremy should go over and talk to the prime minister. It’s always a mistake to say we won’t talk until something happens.”
He also described the threat of a no-deal Brexit as “a central negotiating point with the EU”.
“It would be a mistake to withdraw [that],” he added.
“Although the EU as a percentage has less to lose if there is no deal, as an absolute amount the EU will lose more than the UK.
“It should be left there, it’s a central point of a negotiating strategy.”
Fellow Labour backbencher Mike Gapes tweeted: “Apparently Corbyn is prepared to hold talks with Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad and Iran without preconditions.
“But not with the UK Prime Minister. Why?”