Jeremy Corbyn comes out for a second referendum on Brexit

British opposition leader told Labour party MPs that the move would help to prevent a damaging Brexit

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 23, 2019 Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses at a rally, in Broxtowe, central England.  Britain's main opposition Labour Party said on February 25 it was committed to eventually supporting a second referendum on leaving the European Union if its own plan for Brexit is not approved. / AFP / Oli SCARFF
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Britain’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Monday night that his party would back plans for a second public vote on Brexit.

Mr Corbyn told a meeting of his party’s MPs that he would push for a new referendum if Labour’s plans are defeated in parliament on Wednesday.

“One way or another, we will do everything in our power to prevent no-deal and oppose a damaging Tory Brexit based on Theresa May’s overwhelmingly rejected deal,” Mr Corbyn told a meeting of Labour MPs on Monday evening, according to his office.

“That’s why, in line with our conference policy, we are committed to also putting forward or supporting an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.”

The left-wing leader has previously appeared to be lukewarm about a second vote and said his party would abide by the 2016 vote to quit the EU.

But Mr Corbyn said the move for a new referendum would be part of a plan to prevent a “damaging Brexit.”

Mr Corbyn’s position as leader has been weakened by the resignation of nine MPs last week, who opposed him on a raft of measures including his position on Brexit and a long-running row about anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

He wants measures including a continued Customs Union with the EU to protect British trade. That plan has been ruled out by Prime Minister Theresa May.

"One way or another, we will do everything in our power to prevent no deal and oppose a damaging Tory Brexit based on Theresa May’s overwhelmingly rejected deal," Mr Corbyn said on Monday.

Mrs May said that reaching a Brexit deal by March 29 was “within our grasp”, despite the EU advising the UK to delay its departure.

European Council President Donald Tusk warned that the chances of the British Parliament approving a deal in time were becoming less likely as time wore on.

"I believe that in the situation we are in, an extension would be a rational solution," Mr Tusk said at the EU-Arab League summit in Egypt.

He said that the only alternative to a delay was a no-deal Brexit and that the other EU 27 member states would show “maximum understanding and good will” in allowing a deadine extension.

But speaking at the same summit later, Mrs May said delaying Brexit would not address the issue.

She said she had good meetings with other EU leaders and hoped she could win legally binding assurances about the Irish border.

Mrs May announced on Sunday that she would bring back a parliamentary vote on her divorce deal by March 12.

But Mr Corbyn has accused her of “recklessly running down the clock” by not allowing Parliament to have another vote on Brexit this week.

He said her decision to delay the vote was to force parliamentarians to decide between “her bad deal and a disastrous no deal”.

Mrs May said such a vote would not be possible because talks with the EU were continuing. She said her team would be travelling to Brussels on Tuesday to continue negotiations.

Some observers have already suggested that Mr Corbyn's move is was merely politicking because he knows there are enough MPs in his party opposed to a second referendum that they could swing a vote against it in the House of Commons.

Mr Corbyn is already facing an onslaught from Leave supporters in the Labour party who have been outraged by the announcement.

The potential for Brexit and the emergence of The Independence Group to cause Labour electoral pain was reinforced by a poll for YouGov published in The Times that was circulated on Monday night on social media.

It showed Labour on 23%, 13% behind the Conservative party and only 5% ahead of the The Independence Group. The move to back a second referendum makes sense if the party had been aware of this extraordinary movement in support.