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Corbyn Signals Support for Second Referendum: Brexit Update

Kitty Donaldson, Jessica Shankleman and Robert Hutton
Corbyn Signals Support for Second Referendum: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Follow @Brexit, sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, and tell us your Brexit story. 

Tory leadership front-runner Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure to submit to more public scrutiny, after Jeremy Hunt accused him of “cowardice.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn again indicated he’s warming to the idea of a second referendum, ahead of a key shadow cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Must read: Johnson and Hunt Share Views, Not Style on U.K. Foreign Policy

Key Developments:

Hunt calls on Johnson to submit to media interviews and to join a debate on Tuesday night on Sky News Sky says the debate won’t go ahead unless Johnson agrees. Hunt had wanted the broadcaster to empty-chair JohnsonJohnson repeats “we must and we will” leave EU on Oct. 31, giving little more detail in his Telegraph columnNext hustings, or political roadshow, scheduled for June 27Labour to set its Brexit position on Tuesday, says McDonnellPound falls

Corbyn Signals Support for Second Referendum (4 p.m.)

Prime Minister Theresa May’s statement to Parliament on last week’s European Union summit largely avoided any of the contentious issues facing her party, and even under questioning, she refused to go near the detail of Brexit. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did seem to signal that he continues to warm to the idea of another Brexit referendum.

“What would be worse,” he asked, “crashing out with no deal in October, or putting this issue back to the people for a final say?” He repeated the point at the end of his reply: “Whatever Brexit plan the new Tory leader comes up with, after three long years of failure they should have the confidence to go back to the people on a deal agreed by Parliament.”

That’s short of a full commitment to Labour backing a second referendum in all circumstances, but it’s movement from Corbyn’s position a few months ago, when he was focused on a general election.

Clarke Would Vote With Labour to Stop No-Deal (1.20 p.m.)

Veteran europhile Tory MP Ken Clarke said he would be prepared to vote to bring down the government in a confidence motion to prevent a no-deal Brexit (see 7:30 a.m.).

“It might trigger an election, it might trigger a change of government without an election,” Clarke told BBC radio, referring to the law which gives the incumbent prime minister or a challenger a fortnight to find a working majority in the House of Commons.

Clarke called for Johnson to "expose himself to public scrutiny" in the Tory leadership race because he isn’t on top of the policy detail of Brexit. "He doesn’t seem to realize that you can’t leave with no deal and have an implementation period during which there is more discussion,” Clarke said.

McDonnell: Labour to Find Brexit Stance Tuesday (11:50 a.m.)

The opposition Labour Party, which has been accused of maintaining an ambiguous stance on Brexit, will review its position on Tuesday, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he hoped a more “definitive” one will emerge.

“Out of the shadow cabinet tomorrow I think we’ll find a position -- I’m hoping a more definitive position will emerge and we’ll be able to publicly communicate it,” he said in London.

The shadow cabinet is split over a second referendum, with leader Jeremy Corbyn edging gradually toward backing one -- but still with reservations.

Hunt Says Johnson is Cynical and Complacent (11:30 a.m.)

Responding to Sky News’s decision to pull the leadership debate unless Boris Johnson shows up, Jeremy Hunt accused his rival of running down the clock and avoiding public scrutiny until after Tory members have already started voting in the postal ballot.

“Trying to duck debates and run down the clock until after postal ballots have been returned is just cynical and complacent,” a spokesman for Hunt said in a statement. “Boris Johnson must stop trying to slink into No. 10 through the back door and come clean about his program for government.”

Conservative members receive postal ballots between July 6 and July 8, and the winner will be announced the week of July 22.

Rees-Mogg Attacks ‘Curtain-Twitchers’ (9:15 a.m.)

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the veteran Brexit campaigner who is backing Boris Johnson for prime minister, attacked the neighbors who recorded a noisy argument between Johnson and his partner as politically motivated busy-bodies.

Johnson allies have rallied to defend his right to privacy since news broke on Friday that police were called to his home. At a hustings on Saturday Johnson was cheered for his refusal to answer questions about the matter.

“Corbynista curtain-twitchers are not attractive,” Rees-Mogg told LBC radio. “Putting a glass next to the door with their mobile. Were they doing that every day hoping to get a snippet?”

While rival Jeremy Hunt has called for Johnson to face greater scrutiny on his policies, he is being careful to emphasize that he doesn’t want to probe Johnson’s private life. He said earlier that the public don’t want to see Tory candidates throwing “brick-bats” at each other over their private affairs.

Hunt Focuses on Johnson’s Many Brexit Views (8:45 a.m.)

During his media round on Monday, Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt has been pushing rival Boris Johnson to explain how he plans to keep his supporters -- many of whom have divergent views on Brexit -- on side if he becomes prime minister.

Johnson hasn’t made any media appearances, but his proxies on Monday rather prove Hunt’s point. Both Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who doesn’t favor a no-deal exit from the EU, and Priti Patel, a Brexiteer who does, have both been defending Johnson’s record.

Patel told BBC Radio there would be no Brexit implementation period: “That ship has sailed.”

Clegg: No Evidence Russia Shaped Brexit on Facebook (8:30 a.m.)

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs, said there’s “no evidence” Russia used the company’s platform to influence the Brexit vote. The pro-EU former leader of the Liberal Democrats told BBC Radio: “The roots to British euroskepticism go very, very deep.”

Hunt Won’t Guarantee Brexit by Oct. 31 (8 a.m.)

Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt said it’s “possible” for the U.K. to leave the European Union by Oct. 31 but that he’s not going to guarantee it. In comments that are likely to alarm Brexiteers in the Conservative Party, Hunt told BBC Radio that in the event Parliament blocks a no-deal Brexit, the government would have to continue to negotiate with the EU. Hunt said he wouldn’t call a general election in those circumstances.

Hunt’s comments come after leadership front-runner Boris Johnson reiterated in his weekly Telegraph newspaper column that the U.K. “must” leave the EU by Oct. 31, without giving details.

Minister: MPs Would Bring Down No-Deal Govt (7:30 a.m.)

Tobias Ellwood, a defense minister, told the BBC that if the next prime ministers pursues a no-deal exit, a group of Conservatives would join forces with the opposition Labour Party and bring the government down.

“I think a dozen or so members of parliament would be on our side, would be voting against supporting a no-deal and that would include ministers as well as backbenchers,” he told Panorama.

Hunt Asks Whether Johnson Would Call Early Election (7:20 a.m.)

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused front-runner Boris Johnson of “cowardice” for dodging television debates and media interviews as he tries to get the upper hand in a race in which he’s seen as the underdog.

Hunt said Johnson has to answer questions about his Brexit policy, how he has pulled together such a broad coalition of supporters, and whether he would call an early election to force his policy through.

“The gravity of the constitutional crisis we face as a country is so enormous people want to know what is the plan,” he told Sky.

He plans to turn up for a debate on Sky News on Tuesday and called on the broadcaster to leave an empty chair for Johnson if he doesn’t show.

Earlier:

Hunt Says Johnson Dodges Scrutiny as Race for U.K. PM Heats UpBrexit Bulletin:  Dodging Scrutiny

To contact the reporters on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net;Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs

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