Brexit news: Pressure mounts on Jeremy Corbyn as Labour members overwhelmingly back fresh referendum
Labour leader warned his rank and file will turn against him if he continues to back EU withdrawal – with 16 per cent telling survey they have considered quitting
As many as 72 per cent of card-carrying party loyalists want the Labour leader to throw his weight behind a Final Say public vote – and 88 per cent would back Remain if it takes place.
The researchers warned Mr Corbyn his own supporters would turn against him if he continued to oppose another referendum, as he did a few days before Christmas.
Join Independent Minds
For exclusive articles, events and an advertising-free read for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month
Get the best of The Independent
With an Independent Minds subscription for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month
Around 16 per cent said they had considered quitting Labour because of its pro-Brexit stance – a proportion equivalent to around 88,000 members, according to the analysis.
“Our survey suggests Labour’s membership is overwhelmingly in favour of the UK remaining in the EU and badly wants a referendum to achieve that end,” said Professor Tim Bale, of Queen Mary University London.
“Labour’s grassroots clearly hate Brexit and, although many of them still love Corbyn, he might not be able to rely for much longer on their support for him trumping their opposition to leaving the EU.”
The Labour leader sparked anger 11 days ago, when he insisted Brexit will go ahead if Labour wins a snap general election triggered by the current crisis.
He vowed, as prime minister, to head to Brussels to try to renegotiate softer exit terms to Theresa May’s deal – while acknowledging departure day might have to be delayed beyond 29 March.
However, Labour activists are stepping up their campaign to force a change of direction, urging members to demand a referendum in the party’s manifesto if there is an election.
Some are calling for a special conference to decide Labour’s policy if, as seems certain, the prime minister’s deal is rejected by MPs in a fortnight’s time.
More than 2,500 signed a petition over Christmas arguing “the situation has changed radically” since Labour’s cautious policy was agreed at its annual conference in September.
Today’s survey, of 1,034 Labour members, was carried out by YouGov for the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Party Members Project, partly run by Professor Bale.
If there is another referendum – and a three-way question – 88 per cent of Labour members would back Remain, 3 per cent would support leaving with Ms May’s deal and 5 per cent would back leaving with no deal.
Some 89 per cent of Labour members – compared with 65 per cent of current Labour voters and only 45 per cent of all voters – believe leaving the EU without a deal would cause enduring economic damage.
While just 35 per cent of the electorate as a whole fear shortages of food and medicine supplies in a no-deal Brexit, that figure rises to 82 per cent of Labour members and 58 per cent of Labour voters.
In response to the research, a Labour spokesperson said: “As unanimously agreed at Labour party conference, if Theresa May’s botched Brexit deal is voted down in parliament then a general election should be called.
“In line with the policy agreed at conference, if the Conservatives block a general election then we will keep all options on the table, including the option of campaigning for a public vote.”
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here