Jeremy Corbyn has dealt a major blow to the campaign for a second Brexit referendum, saying the “ship has sailed” on Britain staying in the EU.
The Labour leader ruled out another national poll on the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU, saying he had abandoned his party’s hopes to “remain and reform” the bloc.
His comments come after former UKIP leader Nigel Farage joined calls for a second referendum, while an ICM poll for The Guardian found 47% backed the move with 35% against.
Mr Corbyn said Labour wanted the UK to be in “a form of customs union” with the EU but added that staying in the current one would be tantamount to continuing membership.
He said that whatever trading relationship existed after 2019, Britain had to be able to “influence those regulations” it would be bound to.
“The referendum gave us the result it did,” Mr Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “We wanted to remain and reform, but that ship has sailed.”
When pressed on his party’s stance, Mr Corbyn said: “We’re not asking for a second referendum.”
Asked directly “and you’re not going to?” he replied: “No.”
He added: “There has to be a regulatory environment that is commensurate with Europe – obviously, because half our trade is with Europe.”
Mr Corbyn also supported “working with EFTA countries” – non-EU countries that participate in its single market, such as Norway – but called for more influence over rule-making.
Responding to Mr Corbyn’s remarks, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable claimed the Labour leadership is “moving closer and closer to the Conservatives’ hard Brexit”.
“They are betraying their own members and parliamentary base, who want to remain part of the customs union and single market,” he said
“Rather than ruling out the Liberal Democrats’ increasingly popular call for a vote on the terms of any deal – which would include an exit from Brexit – they should be doing their job as the official opposition and backing the public to have the final say.” The Labour leader’s comments came as EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told French TV “the door is open” on continued EU membership for the UK.
“If the British want to change their mind, that would be very welcome,” he said.
MPs last year won an amendment to the Brexit bill in Parliament guaranteeing them a “meaningful vote” on the final divorce terms.
But Brexit Secretary David Davis has admitted that could come after Britain has already left the EU.