Leading figures from across the Labour Party today joined five thousand People Vote supporters for a march through the centre of Brighton, and a rally, on the first day of the party’s annual conference.
Speakers included Shadow Cabinet ministers Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry, and MPs including Clive Lewis, Phil Wilson, Peter Kyle, as well as local Green MP, Caroline Lucas.
The Labour Party’s policy on Brexit has shifted significantly over the last year with Jeremy Corbyn promising the British people will get a final say in a referendum with an option to remain in the EU in all circumstances.
The march began at the Level, in Brighton town centre, and made its way through the city’s streets to a rally on the seafront at Hove Lawns.
Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, said that, like the Labour Party, his position on a People’s Vote had changed over the past year before declaring that his values meant he would always campaign for the UK to stay in the EU.
“I’ve been talking about a public vote for some time. But this is my first People’s Vote rally and march. I have to admit I was not sure last year that a referendum was the right way out. But now I’m utterly convinced it is the only way out. We have three years to sort this out in Parliament and we can’t. It now has to go back to the people.
“Whether it is this government or the next it has to go back to the people, with a basic question: do you want to leave the EU or Remain. And when that time comes, I will campaign for Remain along with millions of other people in this country.
“That’s because, for us, it’s not just a technical question about whether we want to be in or out. It’s about what kind of country we want to be. We’re internationalists, we’re outward-looking, we believe in co-operating across borders. Those are our values.”
Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said there was no doubt that Labour would not only campaign for Remain but also took aim at critics who have suggested support for a final say referendum made her disloyal to the current Labour leadership.
“We believe in internationalism. We believe in socialism. And if we believe in internationalism and socialism, why on earth would we back Brexit? Especially a Boris Johnson Brexit. Of course, we’re not going to agree to that.
“Whatever terms are agreed by whatever government, we must make sure there is a new referendum, that Remain in on the ballot paper, that Labour campaigns to Remain – and not only that – we must make sure we lead the campaign for Remain.
“When people take this position that we hate Brexit, that we want to reform and remain in the EU, don’t let anyone question our commitment to socialism and our loyalty to Jeremy Corbyn.”