By Alain Tolhurst and David Hughes, Press Association Political Staff
Jeremy Corbyn has failed to back a second EU referendum despite a poll suggesting almost three-quarters of Labour members want one.
A survey of more than 1,000 party members found that 72% would like to see their leader throw his weight behind a so-called People’s Vote.
But Mr Corbyn has long resisted such calls and, asked on Wednesday if he would change his stance, he said: “What we will do is vote against having no deal, we’ll vote against Theresa May’s deal.
“And at that point she should go back to Brussels and say this is not acceptable to Britain and renegotiate a customs union, form a customs union with the European Union to secure trade.”
At last year’s Labour Party conference a motion was passed which said if another general election is not called then Mr Corbyn should pursue another referendum on Brexit.
Speaking about the motion he told reporters the policy was “sequential” on a range of issues, adding: “The issue of another referendum was, of course, one of the options, but that was very much after the votes have taken place in Parliament.
“We haven’t yet had a vote and I think the Government really should be ashamed of itself.
“This vote has been delayed and delayed and delayed. It’s finally going to take place the second week of January.
“That is not acceptable, this vote should have taken place more than a month ago.
“This Government is just trying to run down the clock and create a sense of fear between either no deal or May’s deal. Well, both of those options are completely unacceptable.”
Professor Tim Bale, from Queen Mary University of London, which was involved in the research, said: “Our survey of Labour’s grassroots clearly shows that Corbyn’s apparent willingness to see the UK leave the EU, a stance he has recently reiterated, is seriously at odds with what the overwhelming majority of Labour’s members want, and it doesn’t reflect the views of most Labour voters either.”
The work, carried out by YouGov for the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Party Members Project, also found backing for a second vote among Labour supporters, with 57% of current Labour voters and 61% of those who backed the party at the 2017 election wanting Mr Corbyn to “fully support” a fresh referendum.
It also suggests that tens of thousands of Labour members could be prepared to quit the party over the leadership’s approach to leaving the EU.
Almost a quarter (23%) of Labour members put Mr Corbyn’s failure to back a second referendum down to a belief that he supports Brexit.
Some 29% opposed the stance the party has taken on Brexit, and 56% of those told researchers it has caused them to consider quitting.
That proportion would be equivalent to around 88,000 members, according to the project’s analysis.
If there is another referendum, and a three-way question, some 88% of Labour members said they would back Remain, 3% said they would leave with Theresa May’s deal, and 5% would support leaving with no deal.
Prof Bale said: “Our survey suggests Labour’s membership is overwhelmingly in favour of the UK remaining in the EU and badly wants a referendum to achieve that end.
“It also suggests that Labour voters, while not as keen as the party’s members on either count, are in the same camp.
“Labour’s grassroots clearly hate Brexit and, although many of them still love Corbyn, he might not be able to rely for much longer on their support for him trumping their opposition to leaving the EU.
“As a result, our research is bound to increase the pressure on Labour’s leader to get off the fence.”
Labour MP Phil Wilson said: “An overwhelming majority of Labour’s voters, as well as its members, want the public to have the final say on Brexit and to stay in the European Union.
“But the leadership has too often hidden behind myths that Labour is almost evenly divided on this issue when the clear evidence from this and other polls shows that it is the leadership which is increasingly out of step with its supporters.”
And fellow backbencher, and supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, Luciana Berger, said “he is wrong to suggest that either he or Theresa May can negotiate a better Brexit deal”.
She added: “When Parliament votes down the deal the only other choices will be ‘no deal’ or a People’s Vote.
“No renegotiations are on offer and the EU have been clear that the Irish backstop is unavoidable in all circumstances.
“It’s time Labour took its head out of the sand on this.
“All the evidence shows that Labour voters and Labour members are at one in their support of a People’s Vote.
“It’s time the leadership stopped hiding behind process and faced up to the scale of the crisis and took the side of the people.”
YouGov surveyed 1,034 Labour Party members between December 17 and 21. The pollster also surveyed a representative sample of 1,675 British adults on December 18-19.