UPDATE 2-UK's Labour says open to second EU vote with option of remaining
Britain's opposition Labour Party will vote against any deal Prime Minister Theresa May clinches with the European Union and is open to a second referendum with the option of staying in the bloc, Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said on Tuesday.
With just over six months until Britain leaves the European Union, May has yet to reach a deal with Brussels on the terms of the divorce, and her plan for future trade ties has been rebuffed by both the EU and many lawmakers in her own party.
Labour has listed six tests it would apply to any Brexit deal, including whether it ensured a strong future relationship with the EU and delivered the same benefits Britain has as a current member of the bloc's single market and customs union.
Starmer said May was on course to fail these tests.
"Everybody recognizes the talks are going badly and it looks as though we're heading for a bad deal or even no deal," he told BBC TV. "We, the Labour Party, are going to vote down a bad deal or we're going to vote down no deal because that is not good for our country nor is it what people voted for."
In a speech to his party's annual conference later, Starmer will say the Conservative government does not have a credible plan for Brexit, and that there is no majority in parliament for May's so-called "Chequers" proposals, which envisage close ties with the EU in the trade of goods.
Labour could play a decisive role in whether any Brexit deal is approved by parliament. May has a working majority of just 13 in the 650-seat parliament and a former junior minister said this month as many as 80 of her own lawmakers were prepared to vote against a Brexit deal based on the Chequers proposals.
But like the governing Conservatives and much of the country, Labour is split over how to leave the bloc, with its veteran eurosceptic leader, Jeremy Corbyn, under pressure from many members to move to a more pro-EU position.
Labour's conference will vote later on Tuesday on keeping a second Brexit referendum as an option if May fails to get her Brexit plan through parliament, heaping pressure on the struggling prime minister.
In the published motion which the Labour conference will debate later on Tuesday, the party again set out is position on Brexit - it wants full participation in the EU's single market after Brexit and will reject a "no deal Brexit".
If talks with the EU fail or parliament rejects a deal May brings back, Labour would first seek a new general election. If there is no possibility for one, Labour "must support all options remainng on the table, including campaigning for a public vote", the motion says.
Starmer said a meeting of party officials on Sunday had agreed that any second vote could allow for Britons to vote to stay in the EU after all. That seemed to contradict the view expressed by the party's finance spokesman, who has said a vote should be on how to leave the EU, not whether to do so.
"The question that would be asked was left open because we don't yet know the circumstance we'll find ourselves in," Starmer said. "The meeting on Sunday was very clear that the question would be wide enough to encompass the option of remain. Nothing is being ruled out, including the option to remain."
The government's Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that Labour's "nonsense" about a second referendum would encourage the EU to offer a "lousy" deal and most people in Britain just wanted politicians to get on with Brexit.
"Labour seem determined to take us all back to square one by rejecting a deal out of hand then trying to delay Brexit and re-run the referendum," junior Brexit minister Robin Walker said in a statement.
"Labour promised to respect the referendum result, but are just playing political games and trying to frustrate it."