Corbyn rejects 2nd referendum on leaving EU


LONDON • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s (picture) long-awaited Brexit speech yesterday spells trouble for Prime Minister Theresa May, and could lead to a rewrite of the UK’s Brexit policy.

Corbyn said Labour supports a customs union with the European Union (EU) after the UK leaves the bloc. That sets the stage for a showdown with May as it’s a policy pro-European rebels in her Conservative Party are willing to back.

“We are not proposing a second referendum,” Corbyn said. But he does want a meaningful vote in Parliament at the end of the negotiations with the EU.

What Corbyn wants from the EU is a guarantee that his government would be able to intervene to help industries where needed; he’s also long been against privatisation and wants to reverse it in some areas, including railways, postal services and utilities.

So, any agreement with the EU would need to take account of that.

“We all have one mailbox,” he said, so it’s more efficient to have a single delivery person than three. Likewise, competition for water supply “is a little odd”.

The Labour leader wraps up his 4,736- word speech by criticising what he said is free-market failings in banking, utilities, outsourcing and railways. Corbyn has been far more interested in austerity than in Brexit.

Even in this speech — ostensibly about his policy on leaving the EU — he found place to talk about his major gripe against the government.

“This is an economy that has already been damaged by eight years of Conservative austerity, where wages are still lower today than they were a decade ago, where productivity lags dangerously behind the other major economies, where the government has failed to invest and modernise, where more people are living in poverty. And where closing the deficit, that was due to be eradicated by 2015, then 2016, then 2017, then 2020 has now had to be put back to 2025.

“In or out of the EU, we have to deal with that reality, the reality of market failure and austerity.”

Liam Fox, UK secretary of state for international trade, said: “This is a cynical attempt by Labour to try and frustrate the Brexit process and play politics with our country’s future — all the while, betraying millions of Labour voters.

“This is another broken promise by Labour. Only the Conservatives are getting on with delivering what British people voted for, taking back control of our laws, borders and money.”

In his speech, Corbyn said: “Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the EU.

“But we have also said that in trade negotiations our priorities are growth, jobs and people’s living standards. We make no apologies for putting those aims before bogus immigration targets. Labour would design our immigration policy around the needs of the economy based on fair rules and the reasonable management of migration.”

Corbyn said the country “still in the dark” about what the government wants from Brexit. Workers, businesses, voters want to know what Brexit is likely to mean for their future, he said.

“We respect the result of the referendum. Our priority is to get the best deal for jobs, living standards and the economy.”