Sep 23, 2019 - World

U.K.'s Labour Party votes not to campaign against Brexit in next election

Jeremy Corbyn

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The U.K.'s Labour Party — the main opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Parliament — voted at their annual party conference on Monday against a measure to campaign in favor of remaining in the European Union during the next general election.

Why it matters: Intra-party divisions were on full display during the annual conference, a chance for Labour to lay out its strategy for defeating the largely pro-Brexit Conservative Party at an election that will likely take place in the next few months. Rather than campaign "energetically" on canceling Brexit, Labour's platform will advocate for negotiating a new divorce deal with the EU and presenting it to the British people in a new referendum — with "remain" as the alternative option.

  • Only after that deal is negotiated will the party vote at a special conference on which side they will campaign for in the hypothetical referendum.

The big picture: The vast majority of Labour's members support remaining in the EU, but about 30% voted in favor of Brexit during the 2016 referendum. This dynamic has proven to be a significant challenge, with the party leadership's refusal to pick a side on the most polarizing issue in modern British history contributing to a drop in the polls.

Between the lines: It's not yet clear how Labour's latest decision to propose a second referendum without explicitly campaigning to remain will affect voters at the next election.

  • The Liberal Democrats, a smaller and more centrist third party, will campaign on a platform to cancel Brexit altogether if they earn a majority — attempting to market themselves as the pro-Remain option.

The bottom line: Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline, despite Parliament passing a law requiring him to ask for an extension if he can't strike a deal with the EU. If, by some miracle, Johnson is able to strike a deal acceptable to Parliament, Labour and the other parties' position on Brexit won't matter at the next election.

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