Labour's internal battles over Brexit come to the fore at party conference


Open revolt, splits, division, civil war. Words that we have become accustomed to when describing the Conservative faultline over Brexit.

But Labour has its own internal battles and if they don’t surpass the level of acrimony among Tories when it comes to leaving the EU the party leadership could face a humiliating defeat at its conference today.

Jeremy Corbyn in Medway. Picture: Chris Davey
Jeremy Corbyn in Medway. Picture: Chris Davey

It has almost become a tradition for Labour conferences to begin with some kind of crisis - sometimes more than one - but the split over Brexit and the unsuccessful bid to oust deputy leader Tom Watson creates an impression that unity within the party is singularly absent.

If the leadership is defeated over its Brexit policy by party members, it is likely to leave many floating voters wary of backing a party that is split down the middle over the key political issue of the day.

The conference will have to choose between two competing options: one that would see the party actively campaign to remain and is supported by shadow cabinet big-hitters like Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer.

A second - the Corbyn proposal - would involve the party remaining neutral on the issue while negotiating a new Brexit deal within three months after winning an election.

It would then hold a referendum within six months, and the party would decide which side to back at a special conference.

Corbyn is that when it comes to policy, he will be bound by whatever the party, through its members, associations and unions votes for.

That could mean him having to campaign and promote a policy that he does not himself endorse.

In terms of how this could affect the party in Kent, prospective parliamentary candidates may find selling a 'remain' policy on the doorstep may not go down especially well.

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

How is Brexit going to affect Kent? For all the latest news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here.

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