Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit ‘can’t be stopped’ amid calls for second referendum

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Brexit cannot be stopped in a blow to Labour MPs trying to inch the party towards backing a second referendum.

The Labour leader’s comments mark a departure from the party’s official position, which leaves the prospect of fresh vote firmly on the table, including the option to remain in the European Union.

Labour’s preferred option is to campaign for a general election but as the Brexit talks enter the chaotic final stages, the party is under pressure to soften its stance towards a new public vote.

It comes as transport minister Jo Johnson dramatically resigned in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit plan, saying Britain is “barrelling towards an incoherent Brexit” and demanding a Final Say referendum.

Delegates at Labour’s conference in September, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion saying the party “must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer also received a standing ovation when he told the conference hall that remaining in the EU could be on the ballot paper in a future vote.

But tensions remain over the issue, as influential figures such as Unite boss Len McCluskey and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are unenthusiastic about a re-run of the Brexit vote.

Labour has agreed to vote down the prime minister’s Brexit deal if it fails to measure up to its tests on jobs and workers’ rights, which senior figures believe could allow Labour to pursue its preferred option – a general election.

In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Mr Corbyn was asked if he would stop Brexit.

He replied: “We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognise the reasons why people voted Leave.”

Mr Corbyn said the Brexit vote was triggered by people who were “totally angered” by the way their communities had left behind.

He also indicated he felt sorry for the prime minister over the “impossible task” of reaching agreement with Brussels and uniting the Tory party,

Mr Corbyn said: “I am a decent human being, I feel sorry for anyone in distress. But the best way for anyone to alleviate distress is to take yourself away from the source of it.”

The Labour leader said his party would fare better in the talks, as it would not be “trying to face towards the deregulated economy of the United States”.

“We would want to make a new and comprehensive customs union with the European Union, one that would obviously protect the Irish border – that’s crucial – but also ensure that our supply chains worked in both directions,” he added.

“People voted Leave, or they voted Remain, but nobody voted to lose their job. Nobody voted to reduce their living standards or working conditions.”

Labour’s support would be crucial to any fresh vote on the Brexit deal but the party remains hugely divided on how to square the pro-European support in big cities with Leave voters in their traditional heartlands.

A major survey by the People’s Vote found that voters in every Labour area now support a fresh referendum on the Brexit outcome and that a majority of Labour supporters in the Westminster seats the party holds back staying in the EU.

It also comes amid fevered speculation over whether a Brexit deal is close to being reached, as Ms May grapples with finding an agreement that satisfies Brussels and her own backbenchers.

The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here

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