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Labour DODGES conference vote on watering down Brexit

Labour has dodged a vote on whether to water down Brexit amid fears it would highlight massive splits in the party.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have scotched an effort to force a vote on keeping the UK in the EU single market and customs union.

The issue will still be debated by delegates tomorrow - but the scale of the rift will not be crystalised in figures.  

The manoeuvre came as  Jeremy Corbyn fought to contain divisions, repeatedly avoiding questions about whether free movement should go and how long the transition period should be. 

But Europhile MPs voiced fury at being denied a vote on Brexit policy - saying it made a mockery of the leader's claims to be democratising the party.

Backbencher Neil Coyle said: 'The thin veneer of facade of commitment to a "members" conference' exposed for the bull it always was. Speak up only if you already agree.'

The desperate flannelling, in an interview to kick off the Labour conference in Brighton this morning, came as Labour faced a huge split on Brexit.

Some 30 MPs have signed a letter demanding that the UK stays in the single market and there is pressure for a vote to be held by delegates this week. 

Pro-EU demonstrators also marched outside the conference venue today, calling for Labour to reverse the result of the historic referendum.  

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured on the stage at Labour conference today) is fighting to contain divisions on Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured on the stage at Labour conference today) is fighting to contain divisions on Brexit

Pro-EU protesters gathered outside the Labour conference today urging Mr Corbyn to reverse the result of the historic referendum 

Pro-EU protesters gathered outside the Labour conference today urging Mr Corbyn to reverse the result of the historic referendum 

Europhile Labour MPs voiced fury at the decision to dodge having a vote on Brexit policy

Europhile Labour MPs voiced fury at the decision to dodge having a vote on Brexit policy

Mr Corbyn's performance today was so evasive that at one point a frustrated Andrew Marr asked the veteran left-winger: 'What's happened to you that you cannot answer my questions?' 

Mr Corbyn said he agreed with the government that a transition deal was needed after March 2019 for the UK to adjust to life outside the EU.

But pressed on whether he thought the two-year timescale set out by Theresa May was right, he merely said: 'It is impossible for anyone to put an absolute timescale on that.'

The comments will alarm Brexiteers who are already concerned that the outcome of the historic referendum last year is being subverted.

Repeatedly grilled on whether free movement should stay after we leave the EU, Mr Corbyn again dodged. 

Labour is deeply divided on the issue, with many MPs calling for Britain to stay in the EU and avoid any tougher restrictions on flows.

Despite Labour's election manifesto pledging to end free movement, Mr Corbyn said he 'understood' where those in his party supporting keeping the rules were coming from.

'A lot of people are going to come and work here,' he said. 'We have to recognise that in the future we are going to need people to work in Europe, and people from Europe are going to need to work here. There's going to be a lot of movement.'

But confusingly he also insisted Britain could not stay in the single market because it stopped the government pumping state aid into struggling industries - a touchstone left wing policy.

Mrs May used a crucial speech in Florence on Friday to make a series of concessions to the EU in a bid to unblock talks.

The Europhile demonstrators waved European flags and chanted slogans calling for the UK to stay in the bloc

The Europhile demonstrators waved European flags and chanted slogans calling for the UK to stay in the bloc

The Labour leader desperately dodged when pressed on the BBC's Andrew Marr show today over whether loose immigration rules should be maintained after we formally leave the EU

The Labour leader desperately dodged when pressed on the BBC's Andrew Marr show today over whether loose immigration rules should be maintained after we formally leave the EU

Mr Corbyn said he 'understood' where those in his party supporting free movement were coming from

Mr Corbyn said he 'understood' where those in his party supporting free movement were coming from

The PM said the UK was ready to cover the huge hole left in Brussels' finances for another two years after we formally leave in 2019 - contributing potentially another 20 billion euros - and meet other liabilities that could total tens of billions more.

She also said the European court could help enforce the rights of EU nationals - easing back a previous red line - and admitted that bringing in tougher immigration measures would take time, raising the possibility that free movement rules could essentially stay in place for

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