Corbyn Gambles on Keeping Referendum Stance Open: Brexit Update

Thomas Penny, Alex Morales and Jessica Shankleman

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would hold a second referendum on Brexit by June if it wins a majority in a general election this year -- but wouldn’t say which way he would vote. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said there will need to be a hard border in Ireland if the U.K. leaves the bloc without a deal.

Key Developments:

Juncker says the European Union must protect its single market and is not responsible for the consequences of a no-deal splitCorbyn says Labour would hold a referendum by June but won’t commit to ‘Remain’ Johnson travels to New York later Sunday for UN General Assembly and talks with EU leadersAttempt to oust Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson failed

Benn Predicts Court Battle Over Brexit Delay (12:30 p.m.)

Hilary Benn, the Labour MP who sponsored a law passed by Parliament to block a no-deal Brexit, said the battle will continue as Boris Johnson’s Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the EU approaches.

He said he expects the prime minister to be taken to court -- and to lose -- if he refuses to seek a delay to Brexit on Oct. 19 if he can’t get a deal by then. The law says he must request a delay until Jan. 31 if he either can’t reach an agreement with the EU or win the support of Parliament to leave without an agreement.

“I’m confident that if it goes to court the obligation on the prime minister would be upheld,” Benn said in an interview.

Corbyn Under Pressure Over Referendum Stance (12:15 p.m.)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy (see 9:30 a.m.) to keep his party together on Brexit -- by promising a referendum but refusing to say which side he’ll campaign for -- is already coming under pressure from senior politicians in the party.

“There may come a point where we have to make more of a choice,” former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told Sky News on Sunday.

Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who survived an attempt to oust him on Saturday, went further, telling Labour members that backing Remain in a second referendum would give the party a clear route to power.

“Offering everyone in the country the final say is the best way to begin bridging this divide,” he said in a speech on the sidelines of Labour’s annual conference in Brighton. “We are a Remain Party. We are a European Party. We are an internationalist party. That is who we are. Not perfect, not pure. But overwhelmingly committed to Britain remaining in Europe and reforming Europe.

Brexit the ‘Most Serious’ Risk Facing Portugal (10:30 a.m.)

Brexit is the “most serious” risk faced by Portugal at the moment, Finance Minister Mario Centeno said in an interview with Publico.

“Within the European Union, Portugal is prepared for the first impact,” he told the newspaper. “It will then have to be able to rebuild its relationship with the U.K. in the context of the European Union.”

Raab: Govt Will Respect Supreme Court Verdict (10 a.m.)

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government will abide by the Supreme Court ruling when it comes this week -- whatever the judges decide. He reinforced that message by saying one of the reasons he supported Brexit was to strengthen the say of the British legal system over domestic affairs.

“Of course we’ll respect whatever the legal ruling is from the Supreme Court,” Raab told BBC TV. “It’s absolutely vital that we respect the role of the Supreme Court in our justice system, but also in our democracy.”

Raab also said he thinks there’s a Brexit deal to be done at the Oct. 17 European Council meeting, citing recent statements from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “If those words are matched with action and political will I’m confident that we’re going to have a deal,” he said.

“But what we can’t do is just accept a series of requirements that either put a threat to the position of Northern Ireland or emasculate and undermine the referendum result,” he said.

Back Corbyn or Leave, McCluskey Says (9:40 a.m.)

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite labor union, said MPs in the shadow cabinet who disagree with leader Jeremy Corbyn should step aside. "We should be singing from the same hymn sheet,” he said in an interview with Sky News.

Prominent Labour politicians, including Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, Foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry and Deputy Leader Tom Watson, have pressed for a harder pro-Remain line from the party as Corbyn has sought to straddle both sides of the Brexit debate.

McCluskey, who is one of Corbyn’s most outspoken supporters, said it was “fake news” that he was involved in a plot to oust Watson on Friday evening. But he said people are frustrated by Watson’s policy positions. “Unfortunately Tom gives the impression that every time he speaks it’s to undermine the leader,” he said.

Corbyn Won’t Commit to Remain in Referendum (9:30 a.m.)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly refused to say he’d back “Remain” in any second referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union.

In an interview on Sunday on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Corbyn said his party in office would seek to negotiate a “credible” option for leave, then pit that against an option for “remain, and hopefully reform” of the EU.

“Let’s see what we get and we’ll put that final decision to the British people and make that decision at the time,” Corbyn said. A “special conference” would be convened to decide on strategy, he said, batting away multiple attempts by Marr to get him to commit to “Remain” or “Leave.”

Corbyn -- a longstanding Euroskeptic -- is under pressure from influential members of his team including deputy leader Tom Watson, foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry and Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, to make Labour a remain-backing party to counter the growing threat from the Liberal Democrats, who have vowed to cancel Brexit.

Corbyn Says He Would Serve Full Term as PM (9:25 a.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn said he would serve a full five-year term as prime minister if he wins a general election as leader of the Labour Party.

There has been speculation that Corbyn, 70, wants to stand down as leader, but he told the BBC he is enjoying the job and doesn’t plan to do so.

“I’m taking the party into the general election,” he said. When asked if he would serve a full term, he said “of course, why wouldn’t I?”

Adviser on ‘Lies and Excuses’ of Corbyn Team (9:20 a.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn confirmed that his senior adviser Andrew Fisher is quitting the party, and didn’t dispute that he complained of a “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency” and the “blizzard of lies and excuses” among the Labour leaders top team.

The lines, in a memo leaked to the Sunday Times, were written “because he was extremely distressed about what was going on in the office at the time,” Corbyn told the BBC. Fisher will stay on the team during the election and the two men will continue to work together in the future, Corbyn said.

The Labour leader also insisted that he has a good relationship with his deputy, Tom Watson, and that he was blind-sided by a failed attempt to oust Watson on Friday night. He intervened to stop the move, he said.

Juncker: Ireland Will Need Border If No Deal (8:35 a.m.)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said there will have to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal.

“We have to make sure that the interests of the European Union and of the internal market will be preserved,” Juncker said in a pre-recorded interview with Sky News. “An animal entering Northern Ireland without border control can enter without any kind of control the European Union via the southern part of the Irish island. This will not happen. We have to preserve the health and the safety of our citizens.”

The EU doesn’t want a hard border and the border backstop is an important guarantee for the EU that will help preserve peace in Ireland, Juncker said. “The situation in Ireland has improved. We should not play with this,” he said. “Sometimes I have to question that some people are forgetting about the history.”

He was clear that if a border does have to be constructed, the U.K. is to blame. “The EU is in no way responsible for any kind of consequences entailed by the Brexit,” he said. “That’s a British decision, a sovereign decision that we are respecting.”

Gove Warns Against Repeat Referendum (Earlier)

Michael Gove, the minister responsible for no-deal Brexit planning, warned against a second Brexit referendum, saying it would lead to a bitter rift between the public and Parliament.

He said he is “profoundly concerned” about the prospect of a repeat plebiscite. “A second referendum would trigger deep popular anger and result in a tumultuous rejection of Parliament’s attempt to annul the first vote,” he write in an article for the Sunday Times.

Gove also warned that the Conservative Party will suffer at the polls if it fails to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31. “We are on the razor’s edge of peril,” he wrote.

Referendum by June, Corbyn Says (Earlier)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that if his party wins a general election there will be a referendum within six months after he as negotiated a swift Brexit deal with the European Union.

Remain will be the other option in the vote, he told the Sunday Mirror in an interview, in line with a draft statement produced by the party’s National Executive Committee on Saturday.

“My job is to ensure we are to make the offer to the British people between leave with a trading arrangement with Europe which protects jobs or remain and hopefully reform,” Corbyn . “I’ll let you know at the time,” he said when asked which way he would vote. he would see himself as the “referee” between the Brexit factions, he said.


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--With assistance from Joao Lima.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in Brighton at;Alex Morales in Brighton at;Jessica Shankleman in Brighton at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Stuart Biggs

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