An amendment calling for a second referendum on Brexit could happen as soon as next week, the shadow chancellor has said.
John McDonnell, speaking on ITV’s Peston on Wednesday night, said Labour would push for another referendum at the earliest opportunity, if Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected when put to parliament.
He said: “When the meaningful vote comes back – and we are told maybe that might be on 12 March – there are rumours today that it could be next week … That’s the time when we will have to put the amendment up.”
McDonnell stressed that Jeremy Corbyn’s party would also continue to press for its own Brexit vision and was still calling for a general election.
Labour’s Brexit blueprint was defeated by 240 votes to 323 in the Commons on Wednesday night and Corbyn confirmed Labour would now back a referendum if faced with a “damaging Tory Brexit” or a no-deal departure from the European Union.
But he insisted that Labour would also continue to support “other available options” to prevent either the prime minister’s deal or the UK crashing out without an agreement.
On ITV’s Peston, the shadow chancellor set out Labour’s approach, saying the move would be made when May next risks a meaningful vote on her Brexit deal.
“That’s the time when we will have to put the amendment up,” he said.
The party was willing to do what it can to ensure that the consequences of a no-deal Brexit were avoided, he added: “We have argued in our manifesto that we’ll respect the referendum but that we would not allow Theresa May to inflict upon us a reckless Brexit deal … That would be catastrophic for our economy.”
He dismissed Peston’s claims that there were slim chances of passing the amendment, arguing that MPs were worried about jobs and would consider voting alongside Labour.
McDonnell said: “There is a chance we could win it, and I’ll tell you why. People are worried about their constituencies, their worried about jobs, they are worried about the economy.” He added: “Either a deal will go through which will protect jobs and the economy or, to get some deal through, it will be conditional on going back to the people.”
If a second referendum took place, he confirmed he would back remain for a second time. McDonnell is the MP for Hayes and Harlington in the London borough of Hillingdon, where 56% voted to leave the European Union.