UK's Labour Opposition Says It Might Back New Brexit Vote

Britain's main opposition party took a step at its annual conference toward backing a new referendum on Brexit — but stopped short of saying the vote should include an option not to leave the European Union at all.

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LONDON (AP) — Britain's main opposition party took a step at its annual conference toward backing a new referendum on Brexit — but stopped short of saying the vote should include an option not to leave the European Union at all.

Delegates at the conference in the northwestern English city of Liverpool will debate a motion Tuesday saying that if Parliament rejects the government's Brexit deal, "Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote."

The motion, whose wording was hammered out at a five-hour meeting on Sunday, does not specify that a new referendum should include an option to remain in the EU, as many party members want.

Most of the party's half-million members voted in 2016 to remain in the EU. But many of its 257 lawmakers represent areas that supported leaving, so Brexit poses an electoral dilemma for the left-of-center party.

With the U.K. and the EU now at an impasse in divorce talks, and just six months to go until Britain officially leaves, many Labour members think the party should try to force a new referendum that could reverse Britain's decision to quit the 28-nation bloc.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and other party chiefs oppose that idea, saying Labour must honor voters' 2016 decision to leave. They say a better option would be a general election and a Labour government.

Labour finance spokesman John McDonnell said Monday that "we argued for 'remain' in the past but we lost that vote so we have to respect that."

But Labour lawmaker David Lammy, who backs a second vote, said a referendum offering the choice between "no deal or a bad deal" would be "farcical."

"It absolutely must include the right to stay in the EU," he said.

Labour is meeting after a rocky week for divorce negotiations between Britain and the EU.

The Conservative government's blueprint for future trade ties with the bloc was rejected last week by EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg, Austria. That left Prime Minister Theresa May's leadership under siege and Britain at growing risk of crashing out of the EU on March 29 with no deal in place.

May insists her plan is still on the table. It seeks to keep the U.K. in the EU single market for goods but not for services, in order to ensure free trade with the bloc and an open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

But EU officials say that amounts to unacceptable "cherry-picking" of elements of membership in the bloc without accepting all the costs and responsibilities.

May is holding a meeting Monday of her divided Cabinet, where some Brexit-supporting ministers will urge her to seek a looser relationship based on a bare-bones free trade agreement that would leave Britain free to strike new deals around the world.

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