By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) The option of holding a second referendum on Brexit is “very much” part of Britain’s Labour Party’s agenda, leader Jeremy Corbyn said Thursday.
Corbyn’s comments came after meetings with EU officials in Brussels where he called for Prime Minister Theresa May to back a customs union for a majority in the House of Commons for her Brexit deal.
He said the option for a second vote would remain a key Labour strategy next week when parliament is expected to vote on what May will bring to parliament.
“[Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary] Keir Starmer and I have put a motion to parliament, which included the option of a popular vote to confirm otherwise agreements that have been reached,” he said.
“That was rejected by parliament at that stage. Clearly it is very much part of the agenda put forward by the Labour Party.”
Corbyn said he feared the prime minister was “running down the clock” in the negotiations.
“We put forward what we believe to be a credible process which would be to negotiate a customs union with the EU and alignment to ensure market access,” he said. “We are strongly of the belief that these proposals are credible. That has been confirmed by our meetings today.”
Corbyn underlined “the problem is the prime minister is insisting on her deal which has already been defeated very heavily in parliament and running down the clock by trying to keep the threat of no deal on the table with all the damage that does.”
The House of Commons is set to debate and vote on May’s supposedly altered deal next Wednesday. Following a defeat last month, she said the backstop clause would be replaced with alternative arrangements via more talks with the EU, but EU officials repeatedly refused to reopen the Brexit deal.
The backstop clause is part of May's rejected deal. It was originally suggested by the EU to keep Northern Ireland in the EU market and customs union after Brexit until a solution is found to the future of the border with the Republic of Ireland.
But May negotiated for a UK-wide backstop as what EU suggested would create a sort of a border within the U.K. in the Irish Sea and a new version of backstop for the whole of the UK was added in the deal.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and attorney General Geoffery Cox are meeting Thursday with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday said he was “not very optimistic” about a deal after his meeting with May.
“If no deal were to happen, and I cannot exclude this, this would have terrible economic and social consequences in Britain and on the continent, so my efforts are oriented in a way that the worst can be avoided,” he said.
“But I am not very optimistic when it comes to this issue. Because in the British parliament every time they are voting, there is a majority against something, there is no majority in favor of something.”
The U.K. is set to leave the EU on at the end of March.