UK Labour deputy to demand Brexit referendum before election
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's main opposition Labour Party should campaign against Brexit and push for a referendum to reverse its planned departure from the European Union before any election, deputy party chief Tom Watson, is due to say on Wednesday.
After parliament ordered Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week to seek a Brexit delay beyond Oct. 31 unless he strikes a deal to smooth the transition, Brexit is up in the air with options ranging from a turbulent no-deal exit to a referendum that could reverse the entire endeavour.
In a speech that is at odds with the stance of Labour's leader Jeremy Corbyn, Watson will say there is "no such thing as a good Brexit deal" and Labour must campaign unequivocally to remain, the BBC said.
"The only way to break the Brexit deadlock once and for all is a public vote in a referendum," Watson will say, according to the BBC. "A general election might well fail to solve this Brexit chaos."
"There is no such thing as a good Brexit deal, which is why I believe we should advocate for remain," he will say.
The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the EU, and has given rise to soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and modern Britishness.
It has also triggered civil war inside both of Britain’s main political parties as dozens of lawmakers put what they see as the United Kingdom’s fate above that of party loyalty.
Johnson says the United Kingdom will leave the EU "do or die" on Oct. 31 and has ruled out seeking an extension. He says he wants to agree an exit deal with the bloc at an EU summit on Oct. 17.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday there was still every chance for Britain's divorce from the EU to transpire with a deal although Berlin is prepared for a disruptive no-deal Brexit in case that does not happen.
"We still have every chance of getting an orderly (Brexit) and the German government will do everything it can to make that possible - right up to the last day. But I also say we are prepared for a disorderly Brexit," Merkel told parliament.
"But the fact remains that after the withdrawal of Britain, we have an economic competitor at our door, even if we want to keep close economic, foreign and security cooperation and friendly relations," Merkel added.
EU leaders, though, are adamant that the onus is on the divided United Kingdom to propose a way out of the Brexit impasse.
A Kantar opinion poll showed fewer than one in three Britons think it is likely that the United Kingdom will leave the EU by Oct. 31. If a new referendum was held, 37% of Britons say they would vote to remain, 34% say they would vote to leave while 18 percent would not vote at all, Kantar said.
That survey and a ComRes poll published this week put the governing Conservatives ahead of Labour although there was a huge divergence.
Comres had the Conservatives ahead by just one percentage point compared to Kantar's double-digit lead, reflecting the difficulty of forecasting any election outcome.
Watson will say that while an autumn election seems inevitable, "that does not make it desirable". Corbyn has said he wants an election and that Labour will then offer a referendum with both leave and remain options.
Johnson's Conservative Party argues that Labour wants to ignore the outcome of the 2016 referendum and the public's view that Brexit should be delivered. Britons voted 52% to 48% three years ago in favour of Brexit.
(Editing by Michael Holden and Mark Heinrich)
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