In Depth

Jeremy Corbyn avoids awkward Brexit debate

MPs angered by Momentum-influenced decision not to debate Brexit at the Labour conference

Jeremy Corbyn avoided embarrassment at the Labour Party conference yesterday, Sky News reports, when his party decided not to hold a vote on its Brexit policy.

While the Conservative Party never votes on policies at its annual conference, Labour traditionally does.

Yesterday, delegates chose eight issues from a longlist which included the UK’s exit from the EU. Brexit did not make the final cut after left-wing group Momentum urged its members not to select it.

According to The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow, this was a “significant win” for Corbyn and the rest of the party leadership, because a Brexit debate “would have exposed the divisions between the relatively pro-Brexit Jeremy Corbyn and the strongly anti-Brexit faction amongst the membership at large”.

MPs angered

Rank and file MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate are unhappy the subject wil not be discussed.

John Mann MP, who wants to end free movement of labour in Europe, said the decision was “wrong” and former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who backed Remain, expressed his displeasure on Twitter.

Stephen Doughty MP said it was “utterly bizarre” not to debate Brexit at the conference and former shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander MP said she was “gobsmacked”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Labour of “an abdication of responsibility” in not debating the subject.

Lib Dem Brexit shadow Tom Brake accused Corbyn of caving in to pressure from Momentum and said the decision showed Labour does not “stand for anyone on Europe”.

Delegates, including block-voting unions, decided that topics more worthy of debate than Brexit were: the Grenfell Tower fire, public sector pay, workers' rights, the NHS, housing, social care, rail services and economic growth.

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