Thursday 9 May 2019 2:49 pm

Jeremy Corbyn: Second referendum could heal the UK

A second referendum on Brexit could provide a “healing process” for the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed as he launched his party’s European election campaign.

Speaking in Kent, Corbyn said a confirmatory vote on any deal agreed with Brussels could help bring the Brexit process to a “conclusion”.

Labour’s official party policy is to push for a referendum if it cannot take over Brexit negotiations by winning a general election.

Yet when the party began talking to the government in April in a bid to find a way through the deadlock, a spokesperson insisted a second referendum would be to stop a “damaging Tory Brexit” – not to give the green-light to any deal struck between the two frontbenches.

At the launch of Labour’s European Parliament election campaign, Corbyn appeared to adopt a softer approach, saying: “The view we put forward, the party conference put this forward, the national executive agreed this, [was] that we should include the option of having a ballot on a public vote on the outcome of the talks and negotiations on what we’re putting forward. I would want that to be seen as a healing process, and bringing this whole process to a conclusion.

“Nothing is easy in this. But our essential message has to be to bring people together and that’s the basis on which we’ve approached both what we’ve done in parliament and in the negotiations itself.”

Corbyn had earlier seemed to pay down the possibility of another public vote, saying: "Over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union. As democratic socialists, we cannot ignore that.

"We voted to trigger Article 50 in 2017 and promised to respect the referendum in our general election manifesto and again at our party conference last year."

Labour’s Brexit policy is to enter into a customs union with the EU, but also seek to retain influence over trade policy.

Staying in the customs union alone would not guarantee frictionless trade with the EU, as checks would still need to be carried out to ensure goods adhered to Single Market rules.

An analysis by the the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) claimed the UK would be three per cent poorer over the next ten years under Labour’s plans compared to staying in the EU.

NIESR economist Garry Young said: “Leaving the EU for a customs union will make it more costly for the UK to trade with a large market on our doorstep, particularly in services which make up 80 percent of our economy.”

The European Parliament elections are set to take place on May 23, and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party are currently predicted to emerge victorious.