Corbyn remains on the fence over second referendum: Labour leader says he wants to ‘offer something to everyone over Brexit’ and admits the party can’t ignore 17m people who voted to Leave as he launches European election campaign
- He warned Labour would back a new referendum to block a Tory Brexit plan
- Speaking in Chatham he said: ‘I don’t think Labour’s message is confusing at all’
- Blasted May saying: ‘It’s difficult negotiating with a disintegrating government’
- But a pro-Remain Labour activist criticised him over the party’s ‘confusion’
But the opposition leader warned that his party would seek to block a Brexit deal it did not agree with – by backing a second referendum if it had to.
After being questioned on the clarity of his message to voters, Mr Corbyn said he made ‘no apology’ for the party ‘trying to offer something to everyone over Brexit’.
On a visit to Chatham in Kent the hard-left leader suggested that cross-party talks with Theresa May‘s ministers in recent weeks were going nowhere, saying he had received ‘no big offer’.
And in a swipe at Tory infighting he added: ‘It’s difficult negotiating with a disintegrating government with Cabinet ministers jockeying for the succession, rather than working for an agreement.’
Mr Corbyn, whose party performed disappointingly at the local elections last week and lost seats despite the Tory Brexit meltdown, denied sending out mixed messages over his party’s position, telling reporters: ‘I don’t think Labour’s message is confusing at all.’
But he used a speech to appeal to voters on all sides of the Brexit divide.
Referring to the option of having another Brexit referendum, Mr Corbyn said: ‘I would want that to be seen as a healing process bringing this whole process to a conclusion.
‘Nothing is easy in this, but, our essential message has to be to bring people together.’
Mr Corbyn said: ‘Over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union. As democratic socialists, we cannot ignore that’
But speaking in Chatham, Kent, he added: ‘if we can’t get a sensible deal, along the lines of our alternative plan, or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote’
He said: ‘Over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union. As democratic socialists, we cannot ignore that.
‘We voted to trigger Article 50 in 2017 and promised to respect the referendum in our general election manifesto and again at our party conference last year.
‘But we cannot respect the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit that has caused huge uncertainty for people, businesses and jobs.’
However, he later set out the party’s qualified backing for a second referendum, while criticising the Government for what he said was a failure to give any ground in cross-party talks.
Senior ministers on both sides have been locked in discussions for weeks, but they appear to have stalled with no compromise – thought to be based on a customs union plan – in sight.
‘So far in those talks, there has been no big offer, and the red lines remain,’ Mr Corbyn said this morning.
‘It’s difficult negotiating with a disintegrating government with cabinet ministers jockeying for the succession, rather than working for an agreement.
‘It’s in the country’s interests to try to get this sorted one way or another.
‘But we can never accept the government’s bad deal or a disastrous No Deal.
‘So if we can’t get a sensible deal, along the lines of our alternative plan or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote.’
Labour activists who support a second referendum attacked the speech.
Laura Griffiths, a supporter of pro-Remain groupo For our Future’s Sake (FFS) and vice-chairwoman of the Watford Constituency Labour Party, said: ‘Young Labour members, supporters and voters will be once again disappointed in the continued confusion over our party’s Brexit position, when we are so clear in our support for a confirmatory referendum.
Former Labour MP Chris Leslie – now of Change UK – was among those who criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s speech
‘We need to decide who’s side we’re on – young people, or Nigel Farage.’
And Elsie Greenwood the co-chairwoman of LGBT Scotland Labour added: ‘Today, Jeremy Corbyn talked of ”give hope to a whole generation of younger people” at the launch of the Labour Party’s European Manifesto today.
‘The reality is that my party’s continued unwillingness to back it’s members and voters in supporting a public vote on all agreed Brexit Deals means it’s not giving hope to young people, it’s taking it away.’
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: ‘It’s the same old broken record from Jeremy Corbyn.
‘He is throwing all regard for the environment, for jobs and the NHS out of the window with his personal obsession with taking the UK out of the EU.
‘It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn has trashed the hopes of Remainers. Like the Tories, UKIP, or the Brexit party, a vote for Labour at the European elections is a vote for Brexit.’
Corbyn lashes out at ‘snake oil’ Nigel Farage in face of Brexit Party surge in election polls
Jeremy Corbyn accused Nigel Farage of peddling ‘poison’
Jeremy Corbyn hit out at Nigel Farage, accusing him of being a ‘snake oil’ salesman peddling ‘poison’.
He said Mr Farage’s Brexit Party, which leads Labour in the polls ahead of the European elections, was ‘the No Deal Party’ and its ideas threatened millions of jobs.
In his speech in Kent Mr Corbyn said: ‘It would be an elite Brexit that would only work for the richest, who want to deregulate slash public services and rights at work still further.
‘It would be a Donald Trump Brexit, leaving us at the mercy of a reckless and bellicose US administration.
‘Nigel Farage’s Brexit is a Brexit for conspiracy theorists, for those who see Muslims and migrants or George Soros as the enemy.
‘Only Labour can see off the Farage snake oil in this election.’