The veteran Labour politician Lord Roy Hattersley has come out in favour of a second Brexit referendum, just days before Theresa May is expected to lose a parliamentary vote on the withdrawal agreement she struck with Brussels in November. He said the “vast majority” of Labour members want the party to campaign for a new…
The veteran Labour politician Lord Roy Hattersley has come out in favour of a second Brexit referendum, just days before Theresa May is expected to lose a parliamentary vote on the withdrawal agreement she struck with Brussels in November.
He said the “vast majority” of Labour members want the party to campaign for a new referendum if Jeremy Corbyn’s calls for an early general election to break the Brexit impasse did not materialise.
Hattersley, 86, who was a minister in the Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan governments, will declare his support for the People’s Vote campaign in a speech in Sheffield on Saturday.
Backing for a second Brexit referendum in parliament is unlikely to be tested until after next week’s crucial vote, as campaigners weigh up the best moment to try to win over the Labour leadership.
However, Hattersley’s support will be seen as a significant intervention.
The former deputy Labour party leader is expected to tell Jeremy Corbyn to “put out of his mind all the outdated nonsense about a socialist economy being impossible in Europe”.
At the same time he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday morning that “sometimes, you just have to do what is right”.
He told the BBC it was now clear that no deal was the worst possible scenario and needed to be averted.
He dismissed controversial remarks by the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, in the Daily Mail in which he claimed that blocking Brexit could “open the door” to “extremist” political forces in the UK.
Grayling said there would be a “different tone” in British politics if the UK failed to leave the EU, and predicted a “less tolerant society” and a “more nationalistic nation”.
He said: “It will open the door to extremist populist political forces in this country of the kind we see in other countries in Europe.
“If MPs who represent seats that voted 70% to leave say ‘sorry guys, we’re still going to have freedom of movement’, they will turn against the political mainstream.”
Hattersley said: “I don’t think many people would regard Chris Grayling as an expert on these matters or, indeed, on anything.”
The transport secretary’s comments came after the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, warned a no-deal exit would create a “feeling of unrest”.
She told BBC News Northern Ireland: “I have been clear that I believe no deal is bad for the United Kingdom, it’s bad for the whole United Kingdom because it does put in jeopardy some of those constitutional arrangements.”
The former Irish taoiseach John Bruton told the Today programme the Irish border backstop, which the Democratic Unionist party wants removed from the Brexit deal before they approve it, could not be dropped.
He said it would be like Ireland cancelling its insurance policy. He said Ireland had no say in the Brexit referendum but the result had an impact on the Good Friday agreement, which brought peace to the region in 1998.
He pointed out the agreement also involved a referendum in the Irish Republic, in which voters agreed to abandon the claim on the six counties in the written Irish constitution, which existed since partition almost 100 years ago. This, he pointed out, meant the constitution of the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain was not threatened by the backstop, as has been claimed.
Speaking alongside the former Labour cabinet minister Margaret Beckett and the Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, Hattersley will say there is “no conceivable deal which is remotely as beneficial to Great Britain as full membership of the European Union”.
“Jeremy Corbyn promised the party, that policy would be made by the membership. Conference resolutions would, he said, be implemented.
“That means he must, difficult as it may be, put out of his mind all the outdated nonsense about a socialist economy being impossible in Europe.
“The vast majority of party members now expect that when the hope of an early general election is extinguished, Labour will campaign for a people’s vote,” he will say.
He will warn that young people in the UK will “pay the price” of Brexit, while the elderly would be “protected” from the long-term “penalties”.
“None of us – and that includes the leadership of the Labour Party – ought to waste our time talking about another renegotiation.
“Support for a people’s vote on Britain’s future grows stronger every day. If it were backed by the Labour party, and in consequence, by the progressive trade unions, the idea would be irresistible.
“The people’s vote must enfranchise the young – not because they are passionately in favour of a European future, but because the Europe we build this year will belong to them.
“The elderly – people like me – would be protected from the long-term penalties of leaving the union or hovering half in half out.
“We can rely for a year or two on the prosperity which is bequeathed to us by 40 years of European membership. It is the young who will pay the price if Little England rises from the dead – reduced job opportunities, a retarded rate of economic growth and investment diverted from Britain to tariff free markets.”
The Tory former minister Anna Soubry and Labour MP for Wakefield, Mary Creagh, will also speak at the event as part of the People’s Vote campaign’s national “Day of Action”.