Britain’s opposition Labour Party will vote to decide its Brexit strategy on Monday, with leader Jeremy Corbyn heading for a showdown with his members over whether the party should back staying in the European Union.
The vote at its annual conference in the English seaside resort of Brighton is the latest challenge to Corbyn over Brexit, a row that has overshadowed party officials’ attempts to present Labour as a government in waiting.
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting that Britain will leave the EU on an Oct. 31 deadline, Labour, like the ruling Conservatives, is struggling to agree strategy on Brexit, increasing the uncertainty over Britain’s biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years.
Leftist Corbyn, an instinctive critic of the EU, has been under renewed pressure from party members and even some of his top team to unequivocally back remaining in the EU and their rebellion forced a vote between two options on Monday.
The party will vote at about 1700 GMT on whether Labour should be neutral before a new election, which is widely expected to come by the end of the year, or whether the party should declare a so-called “remain” stance now.
Corbyn has said Labour should first try to win an election, renegotiate the Brexit deal and then hold a special conference to decide the party’s stance in a second referendum. But he has promised to be guided by his party on Brexit.
Corbyn’s finance policy chief, John McDonnell, backed the Labour leader’s approach, and played down the idea that the party was divided.
“We are working together as a party to make sure that people have a choice and that people will decide,” McDonnell told Sky News. “That means having another referendum in which the people will be able to decide between a sensible option in terms of ‘leave’ and making sure they also have the option of ‘remain’.”
Asked about the anger over Corbyn’s stance and the suggestion that pro-EU members will force the party to a more explicit position, he told the BBC: “Do not mistake democracy for division. It isn’t, what we are seeing is an honest debate.”