Opposition MPs and Brexit rebels are planning to ambush Boris Johnson and force him to hold a second referendum on EU membership.
Labour’s Hilary Benn said he was looking at ways to get MPs to support a ‘people’s vote’ when the Commons returns for a special Saturday sitting on October 19.
Those behind the plan want a lengthy Brexit extension and a new referendum by the end of March next year – with a general election only following afterwards.
And allies of Jeremy Corbyn are putting intense pressure on the Labour leader to support the strategy as they fear that holding a general election first could result in a Tory victory and then a hard Brexit.
Labour’s Hilary Benn (pictured) is looking at ways to get MPs to support a ‘people’s vote’ when the Commons returns for a special Saturday sitting on October 19
Labour’s Anneliese Dodds (left) called for ‘democratic input’ during an extension while Tory rebel Margot James (right) indicated she would back a second vote
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is reported to have warned that Mr Johnson is luring Labour into a trap by goading them into an autumn election they will lose, while Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry said yesterday that she could ‘see the sense’ in holding a referendum first.
But in a keynote speech yesterday, Mr Corbyn stuck to his guns, saying that he still planned to demand an election within days of the Prime Minister requesting an extension from Brussels.
He promised a second referendum on Brexit, but only after Labour had won power at the polls.
However he did not, as expected, say that Labour was ‘champing at the bit’ for an election, instead repeating that the party was ‘ready’.
The debate on tactics is likely to dominate the next week if Mr Johnson fails to agree a Brexit deal.
Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act, the Prime Minister has to ask for an extension if there is no deal by October 19. As a result, Parliament will now sit on that day, the first time it has sat on a Saturday since the Falklands War.
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn (pictured yesterday) are putting pressure on him to support the strategy as they fear that holding a general election first could result in a Tory victory
Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) could be ambushed by rebel MPs when the Commons holds a special Saturday sitting next week
But David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, has indicated that Britain would only be granted an extension if there is a general election or a second referendum.
And Mr Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary, has suggested that if there is no agreement, he would try to get a second referendum through the Commons on October 19.
He told BBC2’s Newsnight on Wednesday: ‘We have shown our capacity to take control of the order paper, so we won’t be waiting just to see what the Prime Minister has in store for us.
‘This is a big opportunity for Parliament to say we can find a way forward and a confirmatory referendum is the way to do it.’
Margot James, a former Tory MP who was expelled for opposing No Deal, indicated she would back a second vote.
‘It is vital that this time we actually do something concrete,’ she said. ‘I could support the Theresa May deal with a confirmatory referendum.’
Shadow Treasury minister Anneliese Dodds said: ‘If we have that extension we would need to show it was for a reason – to have democratic input. Whether that is a general election or a confirmatory referendum is something we have been discussing.’
The debate on tactics is likely to dominate the next week if Boris Johnson fails to agree a Brexit deal (he is pictured trying to do so with Leo Varadkar yesterday)
Yesterday, former chancellor Philip Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he did not support the idea of an election before Brexit had been resolved and said it was ‘ironic’ that MPs were being asked to ‘turn the Government out’.
He said: ‘I don’t think an election solves our problem here. I would not support an election at the moment.’
The ex-Chancellor said a confirmatory referendum ‘is not my preferred option’, but did not rule one out.
Speaking in Northampton yesterday Mr Corbyn said he still wanted an election, followed by a referendum if Labour wins. He added that avoiding No Deal was the ‘absolute priority’ and said: ‘After an election a Labour government would introduce legislation to ensure a referendum.’
However, it has been reported that Mr McDonnell told the Shadow Cabinet meeting earlier this week that he was wary of an election before Brexit is settled – calling it a ‘trap’.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has expressed concern, while Labour deputy leader Tom Watson also backs a referendum before an election.
And yesterday Miss Thornberry added her voice, saying: ‘My concern about a general election is it would be a kind of quasi-referendum, that it would be all about in or out, what kind of deal, and so to a certain extent I can see the sense in trying to have a referendum first.’