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18 March 2015updated 08 Jul 2021 1:44pm

Emily Thornberry tells Labour MPs: “Any deal must be subject to a public vote”

By Stephen Bush

Emily Thornberry has called for any compromise deal reached between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to be subject to a referendum, with the option either to accept the deal or remain in the European Union, in a letter to Labour MPs. 

Thornberry, who for personal reasons was unable to attend tonight’s emergency meeting of the Shadow Cabinet, laid out her thinking in an email to every member of the parliamentary Labour party. It complicates any prospect that Labour will facilitate the passage of a Brexit deal, as May is an avowed opponent of a second referendum.

The full letter is below

Dear All,

I won’t be able to be at the Emergency Shadow Cabinet later. But assuming one of the main topics of discussion will be whether to insist that any proposed compromise deal we agree to support will be subject to a confirmatory public vote, with “Remain” as the other alternative. What I would have said is that if we look like reaching any other decision than confirmatory vote that would be in breach of the decision made unanimously by Conference in Liverpool and overwhelmingly supported by our members and it needs to be put to a vote‎ by the Shadow Cabinet. 

The reason I think that is fundamental is that – if that is the outcome – those of us who oppose it can only take collective responsibility for the decision – and defend it in public and on the media – if we are having to go along with what was democratically agreed between us, whether we personally agreed or not, especially given the breach of our commitments to our members at conference. 

The Tory Cabinet had that kind of vote yesterday after their eight-hour discussion yesterday so I think it is the least we should be doing after the one-hour discussion this evening. 

And assuming all colleagues will agree with that principle, and given my absence, can I – in writing – confirm that my votes are that yes, any deal agreed by Parliament must be subject to a confirmatory public vote, and yes, the other option on the ballot must be Remain. 

I hope the meeting goes well, 


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