Labour set to oppose Brexit deal unless key tests met, says Corbyn

Agreement should have ‘same benefits’ as customs union and single market membership

Speaking on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says he would prefer a general election to a second Brexit referendum.

 

Labour is prepared to vote down any Brexit deal Theresa May agrees with the European Union in an effort to send her back to negotiate a better one, party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.

Speaking in Liverpool at the start of his party’s annual conference, Mr Corbyn said any deal would have to satisfy the six tests Labour has set, one of which is that it should have the “exact same benefits” as membership of the single market and the customs union.

“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet out tests, in order to send the government – if it is still in office – straight back to the negotiating table,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

The Labour leader’s warning comes as Theresa May is being pressurised by Conservative Brexiteers to formally abandon her Chequers proposal following last week’s Salzburg summit. Boris Johnson and David Davis, who resigned from the cabinet in protest against Chequers, will on Monday endorse a proposal for a Canada-style free trade agreement instead.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Jacob Rees-Mogg said the EU leaders’ treatment of Mrs May served as a reminder of why Britain voted to leave.

“The EU is blind to have turned down the Chequers proposal – it offers Europe almost all it wants, but in its greed it asks for more. As proposed it would leave the UK a vassal state, chained to rules it could not alter and denied the liberty it voted for. That, in its overbearing arrogance, the EU has rejected this has saved the United Kingdom from a bad deal,” he wrote.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab dismissed reports that the prime minister was considering a snap election as “for the birds” and insisted the government is sticking with the Chequers proposals despite Salzburg.

We are not just going to flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly

“We have come up with a serious set of proposals. We are not just going to flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly. We are going to be resolute about this and really press the EU to treat us with some respect,” he said.

Mr Raab said that Britain would hold its nerve and continue to negotiate “in good faith” but he said the EU would have to show more flexibility if a deal is to be agreed.

“If we just get this sort of ‘computer says no’ response from the EU we are not going to make progress,” he said.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn: Keen to send the Tories straight back to the negotiating table.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn: Keen to send the Tories straight back to the negotiating table.
A pivotal Brexit motion will be debated and voted on by delegates on Tuesday, which is “Brexit day” at the conference. Photograph: Bloomberg
A pivotal Brexit motion will be debated and voted on by delegates on Tuesday, which is “Brexit day” at the conference. Photograph: Bloomberg

Meanwhile, at the Labour Party conference party officials are working on a Brexit compromise after more than 100 local organisations submitted motions on the EU exit to Labour’s annual gathering, said deputy leader Tom Watson.

Many called for a referendum on a divorce deal reached with Brussels while others demanded another vote on the basic question of staying in or leaving the bloc.

On a day when 5,000 people marched through Liverpool to call for Labour to back a second referendum, general secretary of Unite Len McCluskey added his voice to warnings about holding a second vote. He said a ballot should be on the deal, not EU membership. Some Labour voters have threatened to switch their support to ensure Brexit goes through, he added.

“There are significant numbers of traditional Labour supporters who are saying we’re going to vote Conservative because we don’t trust Labour to take us out of the European Union,” Mr McCluskey told BBC Radio 5 Live. “We’re coming out of the European Union, for us to now enter some kind of campaign that opens up that issue again I think would be wrong.”

Mr McCluskey’s remarks come on the back of a YouGov poll that indicated more than 86 per cent of Labour members want a second vote. Delegates will debate the issue on Tuesday. – Additional reporting Bloomberg