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Brexit: UK Opposition prepares for second referendum

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Press Trust of India London
Britain's opposition Labour Party will back another referendum on the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) following a defeat of its alternative Brexit plan in parliament, its leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Thursday.
The Labour Party's motion for the UK to remain part of an EU customs union was defeated by 323 votes to 240 during the session on Wednesday, leading to party leader confirming previously announced plans to push for a public vote on the government's Brexit proposals.
"We will back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome," Corbyn said, following the Commons defeat on Wednesday evening.
"We will also continue to push for the other available options to prevent those outcomes, including a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election," he said.
However, not all sides of the Labour Party are in favour of such a course of action, exposing the deep divisions that remain across the UK's political spectrum over the contours of Brexit.
The votes in Parliament this week were aimed at MPs being allowed to vote on the future course of Britain's exit from the 28-member economic bloc, scheduled for March 29.
British Prime Minister Theresa May had averted a major crisis by giving in to demands from her Cabinet to offer MPs the chance to rule out a no-deal Brexit in the event that her withdrawal agreement was once again rejected by Parliament.
May had laid out a time-frame for the process by offering MPs a chance to vote against a no-deal and then on a possible delay to the March 29 deadline if her deal failed to clear a so-called meaningful vote in the House of Commons by March 12.
Her move, earlier this week, was designed to head off another potential government defeat when MPs voted on Labour MP Yvette Cooper's amendment on delaying the Brexit deadline, which passed 502 votes to 20, with only a small group of Tory hard Brexiteers voting against it.
In an indication of the divisions that still exist, all 20 who voted against the government-backed amendment were rebels from Theresa May's own party, with just 204 of the party's 313 MPs who were eligible to vote offering their support to the proposal.
Cooper had refused to drop her amendment despite the government backing because she said she wanted to hold the Prime Minister to her word.
Her amendment therefore contained May's commitment on giving MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if both her deal and no-deal are rejected by MPs.
During Wednesday night's votes, MPs rejected a Scottish National Party (SNP) motion saying the UK should not leave the EU without a deal "under any circumstances" by 324 votes to 288.
At the end of the session, the UK Parliament effectively voted to endorse May's Brexit strategy but only after she had made a series of concessions to avert further rebellion from within her own ranks.
Meanwhile, Brexit minister Steve Barclay said the details of getting the withdrawal agreement to a form that would be likely to clear a Commons vote by March 12 were being discussed with the EU.
The UK team is working on further explaining the controversial "backstop" proposal, which aims to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.
It is intended as an insurance policy if no answer can be found through a permanent trade deal at the end of a Brexit transition period, although critics fear it could create regulatory disparity between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and effectively leave Britain tied to EU rules indefinitely.
Britain's MPs had voted in January for changes to the backstop and talks are currently taking place with the EU in an attempt to secure those changes, leaving the exit deadline of March 29 hanging in the balance.

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First Published: Feb 28 2019 | 10:16 PM IST

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