Jeremy Corbyn has said he will be “bound” by any vote at the party’s conference in Liverpool to support a second referendum on Brexit.

But the Labour leader made clear he still believes that an early general election is the best way to resolve the political crisis over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

He said his party was ready to “put our case to Parliament” for an early poll, in comments likely to fuel speculation that Labour will table a vote of no confidence in Theresa May if talks with Brussels fail.

Mr Corbyn was speaking as a poll found 86% of Labour members think voters should have the final say on the outcome of Brexit negotiations, and 90% would now vote to remain in the EU.

Labour Party annual conference 2018Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during an interview by the BBC’s Andrew Marr in Liverpool (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Pro-EU activists were staging a rally and march in Liverpool as the annual conference got under way, in a bid to pile pressure on the leadership to back a so-called “People’s Vote”.

Many activists believe that with Mrs May’s plans in disarray following the rejection of her Chequers proposals by EU leaders in Salzburg, the time is now right for Labour to call for a fresh ballot.

Mr Corbyn confirmed that there will be a vote on the party’s Brexit stance during the four-day conference, but it remains unclear whether the terms of any motion will enable delegates to commit Labour to a referendum.

More than 100 Brexit motions tabled by constituency parties will be boiled down to a single question through a process known as “compositing”, and many expect it to result in a fudge allowing Mr Corbyn to retain broad room to manoeuvre.

Tom Watson has also said Labour should back a second referendum if activists support one (Dominic Lipinski/PA)Tom Watson has also said Labour should back a second referendum if activists support one (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Asked whether he would whether he would feel obliged to respect a vote by delegates demanding a second referendum, Mr Corbyn told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “Let’s see what comes out of conference. Obviously I’m bound by the democracy of our party.

“There will be a clear vote in the conference. I don’t know what’s going to come out of all the compositing meetings that are going on.”

A YouGov survey of more than 1,000 Labour members for The Observer found 86% support a referendum on the outcome of Brexit talks, against just 8% who oppose it.

Even in the North and Midlands, where many Labour constituencies voted Leave in 2016, there was overwhelming support – 86% and 88% respectively – for a second vote.

Some 81% believe their standard of living would get worse after Brexit and 89% said it would be bad for jobs.

Deputy leader Tom Watson said the party leadership must “respect” the views of members if conference opts to give voters a “final say” on Brexit.

Conservatives seized on their comments as a sign that Labour was ready to seek to overturn the Leave vote in the 2016 referendum.

Tory chairman Brandon Lewis said: “The last pretence that Labour ever respected the democratic decision of the British people is rapidly disappearing.”

Influential union leader Len McCluskey said it would be wrong for Labour to start campaigning for a second referendum.

And he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics that any second vote should not include an option to stay in the EU.

“We have already had a people’s vote – they voted to come out of the EU,” said the Unite leader.

Mr Corbyn said the Prime Minister should come to Parliament to make a statement on the state of Brexit negotiations following Salzburg.

Asked whether the UK could soon be heading into another election, he told Marr: “We could be, because this Government doesn’t seem very strong… We could well be looking towards a general election, and – do you know what? – we’re ready for it.

“I don’t think there’s many Tory MPs want a Labour government, but there’s many Tory MPs that are very, very angry at the way their Government is performing and might feel it is the right time for the country to make a decision on the future.

“We will be putting our case to Parliament and we will see what happens after that. We are absolutely ready for it.”

As Labour’s gathering began:

– The party announced plans for a £560 million tax on holiday homes in England to fund measures to tackle homelessness and inequality

– Mr Corbyn said his government would require businesses employing more than 250 people to reserve one-third of seats on boards for representatives of their workforce

– Delegates will vote on changes to the way the party elects its leader