What will Labour do about Brexit?

Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan just called for second Brexit vote. What do you expect from upcoming Labour conference in terms of Brexit and in terms of general direction of the party? Read few comments.


Victoria HoneymanLecturer in Politics, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds

It is difficult to know how the Labour Party will progress on Brexit. If they had already called for a second referendum, they might well have upset some of their traditional voter base, but would have provided an alternative for many disillusioned voters. They haven’t done that yet, and if they do it now, they could be accused of opportunism and a lack of integrity. That doesn’t mean they won’t, but considering that Corbyn is thought to be fairly negative towards the EU, it is difficult to see how this could be easily done, but it is possible. More likely is that the Labour Party will criticise the approach being taken by the Conservative Party, without putting forward any specific policies of their own, which is the luxury of opposition, but not necessarily a tenable long-term position.

Robin PettittSenior Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Department of Politics and International Relations, Kingston University

That Khan has called for a referendum on the Brexit deal is obviously significant. However, equally important is the reports that local party branches have submitted large number of motions on the issue for debate at conference. Last year the leadership was able to avoid a debate. That is simply not going to happen this year. Considering the rapid approaching Article 50 deadline and the absence of a deal this is not a topic the leadership can avoid.

The leadership problem is that many of Labour’s traditional supporters amongst white working class voters are very sceptical about a softening of the party’s commitment to Brexit.

I suspect the result will be a vaguely worded final statement which will open up the possibility of a second referendum, but perhaps not explicitly demand one. However, the mood amongst conference delegates is unpredictable, and there is a chance that they would reject a compromise motion, and vote for something more radical.

What is clear is that this is going to be a difficult conference for the leadership to manage.

Tim BaleProfessor of Politics, Queen Mary, University London

Unlike last year, I think the leadership will be unable to prevent open discussion of a substantive motion Brexit, and in particular a second referendum.  This could result in a vote by Conference to support a so-called ‘People’s Vote’, although will doubtless be enough latitude (or ‘wiggle room’ as we say in England) for Mr Corbyn that he isn’t absolutely obliged to start campaigning for one right now.

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