Jeremy Corbyn fails to clarify his campaign stance in a second EU referendum

Jeremy Corbyn, pictured campaigning in Linlithgow, has failed to clarify how he would campaign in a second Brexit referendum.
Jeremy Corbyn, pictured campaigning in Linlithgow, has failed to clarify how he would campaign in a second Brexit referendum.
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Jeremy Corbyn has failed to clarify if he would campaign for a "Labour Leave" deal hammered out with the European Union or to Remain in a second Brexit referendum, if he becomes Prime Minister.

The Labour leader said he would put the choice to the British people, after a Labour government negotiated a new deal with the EU within three months of taking power.

But he refused to say whether in a second referendum he would back his new EU deal, or campaign to Remain in the European Union.

He also suggested that he might take Leave-backing Labour MPs into the negotiations rather than Remainers such as his Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.

Quizzed on the issue during an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Mr Corbyn said: "I want a close relationship with the EU in the future and we will put that decision to the British people and I will abide by that decision. That’s the view we’ve come to in the Labour Party."

He said a Labour Leave option would mean "a trade relationship with Europe and it would mean protection of rights. And obviously that includes that protection of the Good Friday Agreement.

READ MORE: General Election 2019: Labour’s stance on Brexit is nonsensical

"That will be put alongside Remain in a referendum within six [months] – and my whole strategy has been to try and bring people together on both sides of the argument, ‘cause actually there’s a great deal that unites them about the inequalities and injustices in this country.

Pressed further, Mr Corbyn said the EU was "one of the biggest questions facing the people of this country". He added: "We have to have a close trading relationship with Europe. We won’t crash out into the arms of Donald Trump. We won’t be doing sweetheart trade deals with the USA and we won’t be wrecking our National Health Service in the process as the Prime Minister is planning to do."

But when asked if he would take his Chancellor, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Brexit Secretary into the negotiations - all of whom who have said they would campaign for Remain - Mr Corbyn said: "You don’t know who I’m going to take with me into those negotiations.

"There would obviously be a team of people who would be involved in this and they would be representative of all parts of the UK and of areas that have different views on it, as indeed when we had the talks with the UK government over the summer we did have a very wide range of voices meeting the government on this, and I think it’s very important that all parts of the country are represented in this and that’s what I would seek to do."

He added: "They’ll all be Labour voices that would have fought the election on the basis of the agreement we hope to reach with the European Union and which we’d put to the people of this country, ‘cause I do think we’ve got to settle this and that we settle it by agreeing on a relationship with Europe either in or out."

Immigration

Mr Corbyn also refused to say what Labour's policy on immigration would be in its general election manifesto. Its 2017 manifesto had said free movement of people would end when Britain leaves the European Union but at this year's conference party members voted through a commitment to retaining freedom of movement.

The Labour leader said people would have to "wait until Thursday" to see the wording of the manifesto - although the policy would have been approved at yesterday's Clause 5 meeting which confirms Labour's manifesto.

READ MORE: Tories pledge to cut immigration if they win general election

He said: "A lot of European nationals have made their homes in this country and made a massive contribution to our society. A lot of British people live in different parts of the European Union and many of those families have been through unbelievable levels of stress. So they absolutely must have the right to remain and be able to bring their families here as indeed other aspects of family reunion should be available.

"And so also there are huge economic demands in this country. We have 40,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS, partly because of so many European Union nationals have left. There’s a shortage of doctors because so many have left because of uncertainty. We cannot exist in isolation, therefore there has to be migration into Britain in order to maintain our economy and our services. And that will be reflected in the policy which you will see on Thursday."

He added: "There will be a great deal of movement. My instinct is to recognise that economies are interdependent around the world. That we all benefit from people moving to living in and working in different societies and we benefit massively from the vast number of overseas students that come here.

"I don’t want to turn my back on that, I don’t want us to become an isolated society. I am proud of the diversity of our society in our country and I want that to be a basis of how we live."

Scottish independence referendum

Mr Corbyn also ruled out holding another Scottish independence referendum before the Holyrood elections in 2021, despite SNP demands for a vote next year.

His comments followed a warning from the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford that Scotland's desire for independence is "unstoppable" and must not be blocked by the next prime minister. Party leader Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a second independence referendum in late 2020 and has said she will write to the Prime Minister after the election demanding the power to do so.

READ MORE: Jeremy Corbyn rows back on refusal to grant IndyRef2 in first term

Asked if he would give Mr Blackford a commitment for a Scottish independence referendum within the first year under a Labour Government, told Marr: "No. I can't give him that.

"I can’t give him that commitment because what I want to do is win an election, what I want to do is start the process of reinvesting in this country, of bringing forward all the proposals
that we’ve got for a national investment bank, regional investment banks in England and investment in Scotland which will get £70 billion of investment.

"I do not want us to spend the first year on independence referendum."

He added: "I say gently to the SNP, they will have the opportunity with a Labour Government in Westminster of seeing a fair allocation of resources to Scotland, they will see an investment in Scotland that will deal with the massive health and social inequality they face."

He ruled out a referendum before the next Holyrood election in 2021 and said: "Up until then, certainly not."

During his interview, Mr Blackford said the SNP wanted "to lock the Tories out of office" to prevent the UK leaving the EU, in addition to fighting for a second independence referendum.

He claimed a "move towards independence is unstoppable, it will not change whether there is a Corbyn or a Johnson Government in London".

"Our priorities, principally, in this election is about making sure we can escape Brexit - that's the first thing - but also securing Scotland's right to choose its own future," Mr Blackford said when asked about forming potential coalitions with other parties.

On the issue of securing powers to hold another Scottish independence referendum, he said: "It doesn't matter if it's Jeremy Corbyn or if its anyone else, whoever is prime minister has got to respect democracy and the simple fact of the matter is the SNP won the election to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 on a manifesto commitment of a referendum if there was a change of circumstances."

He said if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats on a commitment to hold another vote "it will ill-behold any prime minister to stand in the face of democracy and the right of Scots to choose".

But Mr Corbyn said he would not do deals with SNP to get into government. "We’re not doing deals with anybody, we’re not forming coalition governments, we will put forward the programme on which we will have been elected which is the one of investment.

"And my view is that the issue of an independence referendum should not come in the early years of that government. We should be given the chance, the opportunity and the people of Scotland will see the benefits of a Labour government in Westminster that treats the needs of Scotland very seriously.

"The SNP will have a choice. Do they want to put Boris Johnson back in with all the austerity economics that they claim to be against, or are they going to say, well, a Labour government is going to deliver for Scotland?"