Jeremy Corbyn will claim a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal negotiated by Boris Johnson would put British consumers at risk of finding “rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice” due to lower food safety standards.
The Labour leader’s inflammatory allegation is part of a direct attack on the Conservatives this morning, when he will accuse the Prime Minister of trying to “hijack” Brexit to bring about a low-regulation economy.
At a rally in the key Labour target seat of Harlow in Essex, he will claim the Government’s post-Brexit agenda represents “Thatcherism on steroids” in an attempt to win over Eurosceptics in an area that voted by a margin of more than two-to-one to leave the EU.
Labour has sought to make the fate of the NHS under a post-Brexit trade deal with the US a key issue in the election campaign, despite repeated denials from Downing Street and the White House that the health service will be part of negotiations.
Ramping up rhetoric
Ramping up his rhetoric, Mr Corbyn will raise the prospect of cuts to statutory holidays, pointing to American laws that give workers just ten days off with pay each year.
Turning to food safety, environmental protections and workers’ rights, Mr Corbyn will claim: “Given the chance, they’ll run down our rights at work, our entitlements to holidays, breaks and leave.
“Given the chance, they’ll slash food standards to US levels where ‘acceptable levels’ of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they’ll put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves.
“And given the chance, they’ll water down the rules on air pollution and our environment that keep us safe.”
He will add: “Margaret Thatcher’s attack on the working people of our country left scars that have never healed and communities that have never recovered.
“The Conservatives know they can’t win support for what they’re planning to do in the name of Thatcherism. So they’re trying to do it under the banner of Brexit instead.”
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, the Labour leader described how he had laid down the law to the shadow cabinet over the party’s Brexit position, telling colleagues they had to accept it was now settled.
“I just said, ‘Look, this debate is now over’,” he said. “We’ve done it, the party has now made its decision and that’s it; and that’s what we’re going to campaign on’.”
Mr Corbyn also said he had made a unilateral decision to back Mr Johnson’s decision to go for a December election, despite the objections of some colleagues, including chief whip Nick Brown.
“I didn’t alert anybody in advance – it was my decision,” he said. “On my own. I made that decision. And they gulped and said, ‘Yes, Jeremy’.”
‘No Brexit without the Brexit Party’
Yesterday Nigel Farage warned there would “be no Brexit without the Brexit Party” as he declared war on both the Conservatives and Labour.
In a show of strength in London, the Brexit Party unveiled more than 600 candidates who will stand across Scotland, England and Wales, underlining the resources at its disposal.
Mr Farage denounced the deal agreed with Brussels by Mr Johnson as “not Brexit”, and attacked the “conceited arrogance” of the Conservative Party for rejecting his call for a Leave alliance.
“We won’t split the vote because we will be the only people actually offering Brexit, leaving the European Union and its institutions,” he said.
He said that, as leader of Ukip, they had done “far more harm” to the Labour Party than to the Conservatives, and vowed to target the five million Labour voters who backed Leave in the 2016 referendum.
The Brexit Party would now focus on those Leave-voting Labour constituencies that were represented by pro-Remain MPs, he said.
“I will be out in those Labour constituencies. I’ll be in the east Midlands, I’ll be in south Wales, I’ll be in the north-east. I want the country to know the sheer extent of Labour betrayal.”
But, amid growing Tory concern about the impact that the Brexit Party could have, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons Leader and Brexiteer standard-bearer, called on Mr Farage to “retire from the field”.
He told LBC radio: “I think he would be well advised to recognise that battle he won. He should be really proud of his political career.
“It would be a great shame if he carries on fighting after he has already won to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
“I understand why Nigel Farage would want to carry on campaigning because he has been campaigning for the best part of 30 years and it must be hard to retire from the field. But that is what he ought to do.”
Downing Street confirmed that Mr Johnson will not seek any extension to the Brexit transition period if he is returned to No 10 in the election.
Under the Prime Minister’s proposed deal with Brussels, the UK will continue to follow EU rules after it has left the bloc until the end of 2020 to allow the two sides to negotiate a new trade deal.
“The Brexit process has been going on for long enough,” a spokesman said.
Outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker used a valedictory interview to claim Mr Johnson told “so many lies” during the EU referendum campaign.
Mr Juncker said it had been a mistake for the commission to remain neutral during the referendum because “there needed to be a voice to counter them”.
He also criticised “my friend”, the former prime minister Tony Blair, for sticking to a “narrative” that European integration was a threat to the UK.