Southwark’s Labour councillors voted on Tuesday night to campaign for a second referendum on any Brexit deal, in what has been criticised as a ‘U-turn’ by the opposition.
The policy is a departure from the national party’s current stance, passed at its conference last year, which first calls for a general election.
In November’s Council Assembly, Labour councillors had backed an amendment which added their support for a general election or failing that, a second referendum.
A Liberal Democrat bid to secure council backing for a second referendum was unsuccessful.
Cllr Peter John, leader of the town hall’s Labour grouping, said a second referendum was necessary as “no-deal would be a disaster for Southwark.”
“A new political mandate is needed to move the country and the process forward which is why Labour in Southwark backs a people’s vote,” he said.
When asked by the News whether Labour councillors who were punished for breaking the group whip in November to argue for a second referendum should have been disciplined, a group spokesperson said councillors were expected to abide by the whip and “appropriate action” is taken when it is breached.
One of the two councillors, Cllr James Coldwell (Newington), later resigned from the group to become an independent.
The policy shift was slammed as a U-turn by the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, who said she nonetheless welcomed the support for a People’s Vote.
“They are shameless in claiming to campaign against Brexit locally, while also campaigning to get a pro-Brexit government elected nationally,” she said, arguing it had little to do with principles.
“If it was, they would have opposed Brexit earlier and wouldn’t have disciplined their councillors who supported a People’s Vote.
“All in all, this is too little, too late and fundamentally two-faced.”