LONDON — Britain’s opposition Labour Party said on Monday that it was prepared to support a second referendum on withdrawal from the European Union, a shift that could have significant ramifications for the fate of Brexit and for the country’s future.
After the resignations of nine Labour Party members last week, and amid the prospect of more, the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, dropped his longstanding resistance to a second vote on leaving the bloc.
Getting an amendment for a new vote through Parliament any time soon is unlikely, but Mr. Corbyn’s support for one will cheer pro-European Britons, who have been fighting to reverse the outcome of the 2016 referendum decision. Without the support of Labour, there is no chance of a second referendum ever being authorized by lawmakers.
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Though lacking in detail, Labour’s announcement suggested that, under pressure from many of his own lawmakers and party members, Mr. Corbyn, who is a lifelong critic of the European Union, will ultimately fall into line with those who support a so-called people’s vote.
The move carries considerable risks, as a sizable minority of traditional Labour districts, particularly in the country’s hard-pressed north, voted strongly to leave the European Union in the first referendum.
But one of the reasons cited by the Labour rebels who quit last week to join an independent grouping was Mr. Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit strongly enough.
Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, but so far there is no agreement in Parliament on how to proceed. An exit deal negotiated by Mrs. May, the prime minister, was rejected by an overwhelming 230-vote margin last month.
If there is no agreement, the country risks a disorderly and possibly chaotic “no-deal exit” from the bloc.