LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressed opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday to tell voters in next month’s election whether he backs leaving the EU.
Johnson’s main rival in the snap December 12 poll has struggled with defining his position on Brexit ever since Britons narrowly triggered the divorce in a 2016 referendum. Labour’s new official stance is to negotiate a more EU-friendly withdrawal agreement with Brussels and then let voters decide whether to back it or simply stay in the EU.
But Corbyn refuses to say whether he would then campaign for his own deal. Most top members in the party oppose Brexit and have said they would campaign to remain in the bloc. Johnson’s Conservatives are trying to seize on Labour’s divisions on the defining issue of UK politics.
“Now the time has come for you to come clean,” Johnson told Corbyn in an a letter released by his office.
“Do you believe the results of the 2016 referendum should be respected and the UK should leave the EU?” Johnson asked. “Would you commit to campaign for your ‘deal’ in a second referendum?” Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Sarmer told BBC radio that letting Britons decide what to do about Brexit was a “practical way to break the impasse”.
“It’s not for the politicians… it’s for the people to decide,” Starmer said. Starmer himself is one of the senior Labour members opposed to Brexit. Corbyn was due to address supporters later Tuesday.
Labour is trailing the Conservatives by 11 percentage points in a poll of polls compiled by Britain Elects. But the field also includes smaller pro-EU opposition parties that could potentially form a post-election coalition with Labour if they ever agree on who should lead the government.