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Pressure mounts on UK opposition to stand up to Brexit

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2019-01-08 22:47
An Anti-Brexit demonstrator is seen outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, Jan 8, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The leader of the United Kingdom's main opposition party is under pressure to harden his stance against the country's pending exit from the European Union.

Hundreds of local branches of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party have begun debating a motion put forward by leftwing activists from the anti-Brexit group Another Europe is Possible calling on Corbyn to demand a new referendum on the issue. In the summer of 2016, the British electorate narrowly voted in a referendum to leave the bloc, something that is set to happen at the end of March.

While party policy, which cannot be changed until the party conference later this year, does not include demanding a second referendum, the activists hope the grassroots branches will support the motion and Corbyn will take notice.

Ana Oppenheim, an organizer with Another Europe is Possible, told the Guardian newspaper: "The appetite at the grassroots to take a clear stand against Brexit is overwhelming. As the sequence of events unfolds in Parliament, we need to look at the reality. Brexit is an attack on working-class people, dripping with imperial nostalgia and migrant-bashing."

Oppenheim said the party will lose millions of voters if it fails to go head-to-head with Brexit, and claimed a majority of local branches will support the motion by the end of January.

Oppenheim said Labour Party activists view Brexit as "the brainchild of the far right and disaster capitalists".

Recent research led by Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London seems to support the notion that Labour Party members want a stronger anti-Brexit line from their leader and shows 72 percent of party members want Corbyn to demand a second referendum.

And the Evening Standard newspaper said on Tuesday Corbyn is courting disaster in Labour-supporting London by not being stronger in opposing Brexit. It quoted a YouGov survey of more than 2,500 Londoners that found voters will punish the party at the next general election if it allows Brexit, potentially letting the Conservative Party finish ahead of Labour for the first time in the UK capital since 1992.

David Lammy, a Labour Party MP who represents a constituency in north London, said Corbyn risks "fatally harming our chances at the next election".

In the 2016 referendum, Londoners voted to stay in the EU by 60 percent to 40 percent. Current polling shows the opposition has grown and 65 percent now want to remain in the EU.

Consultancy EY, meanwhile, says financial services companies have moved almost 800 billion pounds of staff, operations, and customer funds to mainland Europe since the Brexit referendum. EY came up with the number after tracking the public declarations of 222 of the largest UK financial services companies in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and says the estimate could be "conservative".

"As things stand, and per regulatory expectations, financial services firms have no choice but to continue preparing on the basis of a 'no-deal' scenario," Omar Ali, UK financial services leader at EY told the Financial Times.

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