What is Labour's Brexit plan? Jeremy Corbyn's strategy explained

The next week will see MPs hold a serious of crucial votes that will decide the what kind of Brexit we will have – or if we even leave the EU at all.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party will play a crucial role in all of those votes, and the week could end with them having reshaped Britain’s future.

But Labour is also publicly split about whether to delay Brexit, how long for, whether we should have a second referendum or whether we should leave the EU at all.

We are supposed to leave the EU in just 19 days.

So with the clock ticking, and a week of high stakes votes in the House of Commons ahead – what do Labour really think about Brexit?

Here is everything you need to know.

What is Labour’s Brexit plan and is the party united?

Labour is still keeping multiple options on the table

Labour is still keeping multiple options on the table – the party’s own Brexit plan, or delaying Brexit, or a second EU referendum.

The party will vote against Theresa May’s deal this Tuesday.

Labour will then pursue an extension to negotiations with the EU, and attempt to pressure the government into accepting a softer Brexit.

Pundits had thought the week of March 11 would end with Labour backing a vote in Parliament for a second EU referendum.

But that’s now been put back until at least the week after.


The Labour leadership has said it will vote down Mrs May’s deal, again, on Tuesday


The party was strongly united in calling for a Remain vote during the 2016 referendum.

But since then some cracks have emerged.

While the membership is overwhelmingly pro remaining in the EU, some of the party’s MPs – on the back and frontbench – have argued that you can’t ignore the referendum result.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn was one of the most prominent voices saying the referendum result must be respected.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is a key architect of the party’s policy changes


The result has been a tension within the party.

High level splits still remain, with chairman Ian Lavery reportedly saying Corbyn would “never be Prime Minister” if he backed a second referendum.

What kind of Brexit does Labour want?

Labour wants a softer Brexit than Theresa May has put on the table

In a nutshell, a ‘softer’ Brexit than Theresa May has put on the table.

Labour originally had six red lines, including keeping the “exact same benefits” we currently enjoy with the EU. However, that plan has since morphed into five demands for a more realistic Brexit. They are:

  • A permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU;
  • Close alignment with the Single Market;
  • Dynamic alignment on rights and protections;
  • Commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes;
  • Unambiguous agreements on the detail of future security arrangements.

The most important of these five points – and the one rejected so far by Theresa May – is a customs union.

Such a deal would mean goods could continue to flow back and forth between Europe and the UK tariff-free, reducing the economic cost of leaving. But it would mean the UK couldn’t strike trade deals with the rest of the world.

Jeremy Corbyn with Keir Starmer and Shami Chakrabarti in Brussels

Labour does however want to leave the EU single market – because the party has pledged to end free movement of people if it takes control of negotiations.

That means the softest of all Brexit plans – the UK staying in both the customs union and the single market, known as the Norway Model – is not currently the preferred choice for Labour.

But this could change very quickly in the next week. Jeremy Corbyn has held talks with Tory MPs who want a ‘Norway’ option, and Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer did not rule it out.

“We have got to break the impasse,” he said. “We’ve got a deal that isn’t getting through and we can’t just keep running down the clock.”

Tory ministers have publicly claimed the so-called Norway Option could emerge as the prime choice of Parliament if Theresa May’s deal is voted down.

Does Labour want to delay Brexit?

Emily Thornberry has said any delay must be time limited because of EU elections

Yes, and assuming May’s deal fails Labour will vote to back a delay on Thursday.

Originally the party backed the decision for Britain leave the EU on March 29.

Now they say the failure of Theresa May’s negotiations and the ticking clock have made delaying the vote inevitable.

But there are disagreements about how long the delay should be.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said the party will only back an extension of negotiation to July – to avoid Britain having to take part in EU wide elections to the European Parliament.

But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said a delay should be “as long as necessary”.


Does Labour want a second referendum?

Basically, yes.

Labour will push for a second ‘Final Say’ referendum – in addition to their preferred options of a general election and Labour’s own Brexit deal.

For the two years immediately following the 2016 Brexit vote, the party was torn on the issue of whether to call a second referendum.

Last September the party’s conference in Liverpool backed a motion, after a lot of debate and infighting, saying they would back a second referendum as one of several “options on the table”.

Even then, it was only after attempts to call a general election had failed.

Peter Kyle MP
Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson have been building support for a second referendum amendment


Even after a no confidence vote in the government failed in January, Labour’s leadership was reluctant to back a second referendum vote.

Critics feated many of the voters in target seats Labour needs to win the next election, who voted Leave, would feel betrayed.

Two weeks ago Jeremy Corbyn confirmed that his party would back a second vote to stop Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

However, it’s still not clear what vehicle Labour will use in Parliament to signal support.

It had been thought Labour might back a bid for a second referendum this Tuesday by two Labour MPs, Phil Wilson and Peter Kyle.

But Brexit chief Sir Keir Starmer dumped cold water on claims the big move would happen on Tuesday.

“It doesn’t mean the public vote’s gone, it doesn’t mean we won’t come to it, but it means we do it… Tuesday is about exposing the weakness of the Prime Minister and then moving on,” he said.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said a public vote was an “option” that’s “still there” in future, but confirmed: “Everything we do this week has got to prevent a no deal and a bad deal”.

Which way will rebels vote?

Well, it depends what they’re voting on.

On Theresa May’s deal, a small number of Labour MPs might back the PM, but it won’t be enough to spare her a second humiliating defeat unless she scoops up near-unanimous Tory support.

Seven Labour MPs recently broke ranks with the party to vote for Tory amendments which called on Theresa May to reform the backstop with Ireland.

These were Ian Austin, Sir Kevin Barron, Jim Fitzpatrick, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer. 
If any MPs are likely to break ranks to back the PMs deal they will likely come from their rank.

Attempts to court Labour MPs in Leave supporting seat with cash last week were branded a “desperate bribe” and MPs from these seats like Wigan’s Lisa Nandy and Great Grimsby’s Melanie Onn are unlikely to break ranks and back the PM’s deal.

When it comes to delaying Brexit, however, the rebellion could be bigger.

Twenty-five Labour MPs voted against the last attempt to delay Brexit, the so-called Cooper amendment.

Some may still be opposed to any delay – but the party leadership is calling on all MPs to back it.

Some MPs like Caroline Flint are likely to rebel against the party line


And finally when it comes to the vote for a second referendum Labour could face quite a large internal rebellion if Mr Corbyn doesn’t allow a free vote. One shadow minister, speaking to the Mirror, estimated it could be in the 40s.

This weekend The Telegraph reported that 10 shadow ministers said they would resign from Labour’s frontbench if the party whipped the vote to back a second referendum.

They would be joined by a number of prominent Labour MPs, some like John Mann who backed Leave in 2016.

Other like Caroline Flint personally voted Remain but believe the vote must be respected.

The number could be large enough to sink any plans for a second poll if the Tory rebellion is small.

What about a no confidence vote?

This is the Labour leader’s preferred option.

Theresa May loses the vote for her deal, followed by a No Confidence vote in HM Government which sets in motion the route to a General Election.

Under the rules, once Jeremy Corbyn calls a no confidence vote (and he can do this multiple times), the debate and vote is held the next day in the Commons.

If the government loses the vote, and can’t win back the support of the House, an election is triggered 14 days later.

This was the route Labour pursued after Mrs May’s first historic defeat.

But it failed then because not enough MPs who oppose May’s deal want to give Corbyn a chance to become Prime Minister.

This is especially true of the DUP, who could change their minds on Wednesday but are very unlikely to. They are the key that is needed to unlock a winning no confidence vote.

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