Time for a referendum?

Labour sound like they're warming up to the prospect

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Will a cross party Brexit deal be put to a referendum?

By Joe Harker

Cross party talks between the Conservatives and Labour have been bogged down for weeks, with little discernible progress since they started.

Both sides accuse the other of being unwilling to budge from their positions and the government has reportedly not altered its red lines on a Brexit deal that has been defeated three times in the House of Commons.

Even if a deal was struck it may not have the numbers to pass through parliament. Not all of Labour and the Tories would support the deal their parties might make, while most of the smaller parties wouldn't back a deal unless it was put to a second referendum.

The Claim:

An increasing number of Labour politicians are talking up the chances of a confirmatory referendum, including shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer. He said any cross party deal struck with the government would have to include a public vote otherwise up to 150 Labour MPs wouldn't back the deal.

Other senior Labour figures have voiced support for another referendum, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell saying the party would "inevitably" support a referendum if a general election wasn't on the table.

Deputy leader Tom Watson warned his party couldn't sit on the fence any more and would have to take a more decisive stance, he has regularly appeared to contradict Jeremy Corbyn on the subject.

An agreement struck between Labour and the Tories wouldn't have much support among the Tory backbenches so a significant portion of MPs demanding a referendum could be the only way to pass it through the House of Commons.

Labour and the Tory MPs who would have to vote with the government or resign could be enough to get the deal over the line, though a referendum could also gain the support of the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Change UK. That would surely have the requisite numbers to pass.

The Counter Claim:

Much of this speculation seems academic as for any of this to work the Tories would have to agree to put a cross party deal to another referendum. According to Theresa May that's not going to happen.

While differences between the prime minister's promises and reality might give hope that she'll come around that is made unlikely by her party and time. To agree to another referendum is to make her party cast her from power, even without provoking them further they are already working to oust her.

Most of the candidates to succeed May take a harder line on Brexit, there are few if any Tories who would be willing to agree to a second referendum let alone continue the cross party talks with Labour. If May isn't agreeing to one then no Tory is likely to.

There's also the very real chance that cross party talks will collapse soon, yesterday the cabinet met to discuss whether they should end. They decided otherwise for now but plenty in the party believe there is little purpose or benefit in negotiating with Labour.

With the talks on life support neither side looks ready to make concessions and the cabinet also agreed that the withdrawal agreement really needed to be passed by the end of July. Without cross party support May doesn't have the numbers to do so, with it she wouldn't have a party.

The Facts:

The last so called "meaningful vote" on the prime minister's withdrawal agreement was defeated by 344 votes to 286. It was her third attempt to do so.

Current polling average that pits Remain against a deal has 61 per cent support for staying in the EU if there was a second referendum. Supporters of a confirmatory referendum believe they could see a comfortable Remain victory under such circumstances. They are trying to pick a fight they are expected to win.

May has said she will resign if a withdrawal agreement is passed, though Labour are concerned ushering in a deal that could be altered by a different Tory leader. They do not want to help May pass her version of Brexit then find themselves locked out as the deal is changed.

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