Jeremy Corbyn is under increasing pressure to change Labour’s Brexit policy as the North’s most senior metro mayor today backs an extension of Britain’s EU membership to guard against a no deal withdrawal, if necessary.
Andy Burnham will say emergency measures should be put in place if MPs vote down any agreement Theresa May achieves after negotiations with the EU - an increasing possibility with several Tory Remainers and Brexiteers opposed to her Chequers plan.
And if the EU turns down any attempt to extend the Article 50 exit process, the Greater Manchester Mayor would back a second referendum on the final terms of withdrawal, despite his reservations that it may turn voters further against politicians.
The GMB, one of Britain’s biggest unions and a major Labour donor, yesterday called for a public vote on the final Brexit deal.
And Labour could face a concerted effort to change party policy at its conference later this month, with pro-EU MPs reportedly poised to strike, the Royal College of Midwives and TSSA union also backing a second vote, and unions set to debate their position at the TUC annual congress in Manchester this weekend.
If Mr Corbyn’s Labour were to back a second referendum it could dramatically shift the Brexit debate as the clock ticks down to November’s deadline for a deal.
And it comes as analysis by the pro-”People’s Vote” Best for Britain campaign suggested 1.6m voters have shifted from Leave to Remain, taking into account people switching in both directions - enough to overturn the 2016 referendum in a new poll.
Mr Burnham will use his first major speech in Westminster since becoming Mayor to paint a stark picture of the “double digit damage” a no deal Brexit could do to the economy in the North.
But he described a “polarised no deal/People’s Vote dynamic” as “the biggest danger facing British politics”, arguing instead for a “common-sense Brexit deal” that protects businesses and consumers while allowing the UK to better control immigration.
Mr Burnham will argue this means “building up” from Chequers rather than “watering it down”, while admitting that looks ever more unlikely.
“The odds on a no-deal outcome are growing every day, so we need a contingency plan,” he will say.
"As soon as it becomes clear that MPs who oppose a no deal Brexit cannot unite around another plan, they should call for an extension of Article 50 beyond the March 29 exit deadline.
“If that fails and we are left on the cliff-edge of no deal with no other options, then and only then would I endorse the call for a People’s Vote."
Mr Burnham will also call for further devolution, as Yorkshire leaders wait for the Government to respond constructively to demands for a One Yorkshire deal.
He will say it is “dangerous” to ignore the “deeply-held sentiment” expressed in the referendum that certain areas have been neglected by Westminster.
Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis urged Jeremy Corbyn to “stand up to his union paymasters” and rule out a second EU referendum.
“Re-running the referendum would take us all back to square one,” he said.
“While Labour are only interested in frustrating the process, the Conservatives have a plan for a deal which will deliver on the result of the referendum by taking back control of our laws, borders and money.”
But GMB union boss Tim Roache insisted a public vote was needed as “the promises that were made during the referendum campaign are simply not the reality we are facing”.