Union kingpin Len McCluskey attacked the ‘well-funded Remain lobby’ today saying it was as responsible as the Tories for creating a ‘toxic situation’ over Brexit.
The Unite boss said that he would back a second referendum – but only on a Labour deal to Leave – after it won power in a general election.
Mr McCluskey, a close associate of party leader Jeremy Corbym, said that the party needed to give him time to work amid a growing clamour over its Brexit strategy.
Although he said he would back Remain rather than a No Deal Brexit, he told the BBC’s Marr that he wanted ‘a Brexit that respects the result of the referendum but actually does so with an agreement that the 48 per cent who want to Remain would be happy with.’
He said: ‘There seems to be a panic to rush in order to establish a different position from one the Labour Party has had for a couple of years now, which is respecting the result of the 2016 referendum and trying to negotiate a deal which would unite the nation.
‘Unfortunately we have had a prime minister who has made huge mistakes and a government which has been incapable of delivering Brexit.
‘And we have had a well-funded Remain lobby that has turned the nation into a toxic situation.’
He added: ‘There is no panic to do anything. We’ve got a policy conference coming up in less than 12 weeks, let Jeremy Corbyn consult.
‘Jeremy’s done ok so far, let’s trust him to consult and see what emerges.’
Mr Corbyn last week deferred a decision on whether to back a second referendum by two weeks.
Labour’s shadow cabinet had been due to agree a position at a meeting last Wednesday but he postponed it to have further discussions with trade union leaders.
Some like Mr McCluskey back Leave and along with MPs in Labour seats that backed Brexit are pushing back at attempts to line the party up behind a second referendum.
Labour MP David Lammy hit back at Mr McCluskey today. The People’s Vote backer said: ‘Anyone urging Jeremy to delay this decision for another 12 weeks is not asking him to demonstrate leadership, they are asking him to continue with a can-kicking strategy that has already seen millions of people turn away from Labour.
‘Further dithering will not only harm our party’s chances in the next election but harm our communities and our country too.
‘As Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt vie against each other to offer the 0.25 per cent of the UK who are Conservative Party members the hardest possible Brexit, the people are crying out for strong and principled opposition.
‘Now is the time for Labour to act – and do it fast.’
Deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer are spearheading attempts by Labour Remainers to push the party in behind a new vote amid concerns that the next Tory leader will push for a No Deal Brexit.
Mr Watson has said that it would be ‘history making’ if the party explicitly backed supporting a vote to remain in the European Union in a new referendum.
Labour has already indicated that any deal should be put to a public vote and Mr Watson has warned the party would be ‘electoral history’ if it did not make it clear it supports Remain.
Shifting Labour’s stance to full support of Remain and a second referendum is taking longer than expected, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has told Sky’s Sophy Ridge.
Mr McDonnell said the discussion was about the ‘attitude’ Labour should take and Jeremy Corbyn had given trade unions more time to decide.
He said: ‘(Jeremy) had a meeting on the Monday before the last shadow cabinet and I thought the next day we were going to move forward.
‘The unions asked for a bit more time and I don’t mind that – that’s the type of leader Jeremy is, he is a consensus builder.’