Labour members want Jeremy Corbyn to back second referendum - poll

2 January 2019, 09:12 | Updated: 2 January 2019, 10:57

Jeremy Corbyn's position on Brexit is under fresh scrutiny after a poll suggested party members overwhelmingly back a second referendum.

The Labour leader has not ruled out supporting a new referendum, but he prefers a general election.

In an interview before Christmas, Mr Corbyn said Labour would push on with Brexit if it won a snap election in the new year.

If the election does not happen, official party policy is to "support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote".

But a poll of party members is likely to add pressure on the Labour leader.

The work, by YouGov for the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Party Members Project, found that 72% of members want Mr Corbyn to support another referendum.

Almost a quarter (23%) of members think the Labour leader is not backing a so-called "people's vote" because he is in favour of Brexit.

Some 29% say they are against the party's current stance on the EU, with 56% of those rank-and-file members telling pollsters the issue has caused them to consider leaving Labour.

According to the project's analysis, this proportion would be equivalent to around 88,000 members.

The polling also found support for another vote among Labour supporters.

Some 57% of current Labour voters and 61% who supported the party at the 2017 election want Mr Corbyn to "fully support" a second referendum.

Professor Tim Bale, of Queen Mary University London, said: "Our survey of Labour's grassroots clearly shows that Corbyn's apparent willingness to see the UK leave the EU - a stance he has recently reiterated - is seriously at odds with what the overwhelming majority of Labour's members want, and it doesn't reflect the views of most Labour voters either."

In the event another referendum does take place and a three-way question is on the ballot paper, some 88% of Labour members said they would vote Remain, 3% would opt to leave with Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal and 5% would cast a ballot in favour of leaving with no deal.

If the options on the ballot were Mrs May's deal or no deal, some 27% of party members said they would not vote altogether, but 46% said they would back the PM's agreement.

Prof Bale said: "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.

"As a result, our research is bound to increase the pressure on Labour's leader to get off the fence."

Labour MP Phil Wilson, a supporter of the People's Vote campaign for a second referendum, said: "Labour's leadership now has a huge opportunity to be at the front of a popular campaign against the government's Brexit deal and make sure the public are given the right to have the final say in the form of a People's Vote.

"I urge Jeremy to seize this chance to change the course of history, before it's too late."

When asked whether he would back a second referendum, the Labour leader said: "What we will do is vote against having no deal, we'll vote against Theresa May's deal, at that point she should go back to Brussels and say this is not acceptable to Britain and renegotiate a customs union, form a customs union with the European Union to secure trade."

Referring to a motion on the issue adopted at September's party conference, Mr Corbyn added: "The Labour Party conference motion had a sequential range of issues and the issue of another referendum is of course one of the options at the end of that.

"But that is very much after the votes have taken place in parliament, we haven't yet had a vote."

YouGov polled 1,034 Labour members between 17 and 21 December and a representative sample of 1,675 British adults from 18-19 December.