Watson pleads for European election votes


Tom WatsonImage copyright

Labour’s deputy leader is calling for members to vote for the party at forthcoming elections, despite unhappiness with its EU position.

In a speech on Monday, Tom Watson will “plead” with voters to back Labour against Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Campaigning for the European elections continues, with votes to elect 73 UK MEPs due to be cast on 23 May.

Cross-party talks between Labour and the government to find a way through the Brexit deadlock continue on Monday.

Mr Watson’s speech will mark the 25th anniversary of the death of the former Labour leader John Smith.

In it, he will say he believes Mr Smith would have supported the view of his former deputy, Dame Margaret Beckett, and backed a “People’s Vote”.

Mr Watson will also say that “corrosive far-right sentiment, posing as patriotism, will dominate this EU election”.

“There are only two forces that can win this election – that nasty nationalism of the Farage Brexit Party, or the tolerant, compassionate outward-looking patriotism of the Labour Party.

“I can only plead with Labour supporters – don’t stay at home, don’t put that cross elsewhere, don’t let them win.”

Mr Watson had called for his party to promise a referendum on any Brexit deal in its European elections manifesto.

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John Smith died at the age of 55

Talks between representatives from the government and Labour are set to continue on Monday – Mrs May is hoping to reach a cross-party consensus on her withdrawal agreement after failing to get it through Parliament three times.

The UK had been due to leave the EU on 29 March, but the deadline was pushed back to 31 October after Parliament was unable to agree a way forward.

Ahead of European elections later this month, two separate polls, by ComRes and Opinium, give the Brexit Party the biggest share of the vote with the Conservatives in fourth place behind Labour and the Lib Dems.

Labour has agreed to support a further referendum on Brexit under certain circumstances.

The National Executive Committee, when it met to decide the wording of the EU election manifesto, rejected the idea of campaigning for a referendum under all circumstances.

But the party will demand a public vote if it cannot get changes to the government’s deal or an election.

Labour’s position on Brexit

June 2017 – Labour’s general election manifesto accepts referendum result

March 2018 – Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith sacked for supporting second referendum on final deal

September – Labour agrees if a general election cannot be achieved it “must support all options… including a public vote”

18 November – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says a new referendum is “an option for the future” but “not an option for today

28 November – Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says Labour will “inevitably” back a second referendum if unable to secure general election

16 January 2019 – 71 Labour MPs say they support a public vote

6 February – Mr Corbyn writes a letter to Mrs May outlining five changes with no mention of a “People’s Vote”

28 February – Labour says it will back a public vote after its proposed Brexit deal is rejected

14 March Five Labour MPs quit party roles to oppose a further referendum

27 March – The party backs a confirmatory public vote in Parliament’s indicative votes on a way forward for Brexit

30 April – Party agrees to demand a public vote if it cannot get changes to the government’s deal or an election, as it decides wording to EU election manifesto

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