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Council assembly fails to back ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit

A motion for Southwark Council to formally back a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit failed at council assembly last night despite Labour councillors being urged to back it by a deputation of campaigners.

The motion, moved by Liberal Democrat councillor David Noakes, called on the council to back a referendum with an option to remain in the EU, a so-called ‘People’s Vote’.

However a Labour-backed amendment instead passed which added the council’s backing for a general election if Theresa May is unable to pass her Brexit deal in Parliament.

Parliament’s meaningful vote on the Brexit deal negotiated by the prime minister is due to take place on December 11.

Two Labour councillors, Cllr James Coldwell and Cllr Eleanor Kerslake, both of Newington ward, defied the party’s whip to vote for the motion.

Cllr Coldwell said the motion was identical to the People’s Vote motions passed by Labour-run councils in Lambeth and Lewisham and was backed by the party’s membership.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that a general election cannot come soon enough, but even if we secure a general election that will not make Brexit go away,” he said.

“Unless a new referendum takes place with an option to remain, the next Labour government will find itself just as paralysed by Brexit the current Conservative one.

“I will have a disciplinary proceeding starting probably as soon as next week and there’s a chance I’ll have the whip removed for a substantial period of time. [But] I believe the right course-of-action is to support a people’s vote.”

The speech earned him standing applause from Liberal Democrat councillors, who said they hoped the Labour group did not punish him for breaking the whip.

A deputation of People’s Vote campaigners had earlier in the evening urged Labour councillors to “become heroes again” by backing the motion.

Campaigners also demonstrated outside the council’s offices on Tooley Street prior to the meeting in support of a referendum on the EU deal.


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