Jeremy Corbyn will meet EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels tomorrow after demanding Theresa May stand aside if she cannot get her deal through Parliament.
Labour’s leader used his main conference speech in Liverpool to demand a General Election if the Prime Minister cannot deliver a deal.
Mrs May’s proposals are rejected by the Brexiteer wing of her own party, Mr Corbyn’s Labour and Brussels – making them look impossible to pass.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured today speaking to Labour conference in Liverpool) will meet EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels tomorrow after demanding Theresa May stand aside if she cannot get her deal through Parliament
Mr Corbyn will have a new round of talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured earlier this month in Slovenia) in Brussels tomorrow
Labour’s conference has been dominated by Brexit splits amid a row over whether the party should endorse a second referendum.
Party policy has stumbled toward backing a new poll if Mrs May refuses a general election – prompting further splits over whether remaining in the EU should be on the ballot.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has seen off critics in the party this week who insisted any new referendum should only be between an exit deal and no deal – making a remain option likely.
But Mr Corbyn told activists: ‘Keir, having got agreement yesterday in this conference hall, getting one in Brussels should be a piece of cake.’
Labour has insisted it will only vote for a Brexit deal that meets its six tests – and Emily Thonberry claimed today the Chequers plan cannot do so.
The tests are:
1. Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
2. Does it deliver the ‘exact same benefits’ as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?
3. Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?
4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
5. Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
6. Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?
Mr Corbyn repeated his threat to vote down Theresa May’s planned deal if it does not include a customs union and a solution on the Irish border.
And he said there must be a snap election if the PM cannot get her deal past MPs.
The Labour leader said: ‘Let me say to the country. As it stands, Labour will vote against the Chequers plan or whatever is left of it and oppose leaving the EU with no deal.
‘And it is inconceivable that we should crash out of Europe with no deal – that would be a national disaster.
‘That is why if Parliament votes down a Tory deal or the government fails to reach any deal at all we would press for a General Election.
‘Failing that, all options are on the table.’
Labour’s four-day conference in Liverpool has been dominated by Brexit, but has seen the Labour leader and shadow chancellor John McDonnell set out a range of policies to reverse inequalities in wealth and economic power.
These have ranged from workers in the boardroom to employee shareholding funds and new taxes on second homes.
They sparked warnings from the CBI that Labour risks ‘cracking the foundations of this country’s prosperity’.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer (second left in Liverpool today) has seen off critics in the party this week who insisted any new referendum should only be between an exit deal and no deal – making a remain option likely
The shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer yesterday said Labour’s analysis of the Chequers deal showed it would fail all six of the party’s ‘Brexit tests’.
And he said Labour would never back a so-called ‘blind Brexit’, in which the final terms of Britain’s future relationship with the EU are fudged until after it has left.
With Mrs May ruling out alternative plans, Labour now looks set to oppose any deal this autumn – even though that could leave the UK facing a no-deal Brexit, which the party says it opposes.
Critics say Jeremy Corbyn is even more determined than the government to have his cake and eat it on Brexit
Labour’s Brexit stance has undergone so many changes it can be difficult to keep track.
Even during the referendum in 2016 Jeremy Corbyn was accused of half-hearted campaigning and hedging his bets – admitting he was only ‘7 out of 10’ in favour of Remain.
SInce then the leadership has been trying to maintain ‘constructive ambiguity’ so it can keep hold of heartland voters who often back Brexit – without alienating the party’s largely Remainer members and MPs.
But critics say Mr Corbyn is even more determined than the government to have his cake and eat it, and has no real answers to what shape Brexit should take.
The latest version of Labour’s Brexit policy is due to be voted on at the 2018 conference. Official policy says there should be a new general election but if this is impossible, the party could back a new referendum.
Last September Mr Watson said the party was ‘not ruling it out, but it’s highly unlikely’.
But in November, letters emerged from shadow home secretary Diane Abbott to constituents saying she would ‘argue for the right of the electorate to vote on any deal that is finally agreed’.
In December, Mr Corbyn said ‘We’ve not made any decision on a second referendum.’
But by January this year he was stating: ‘We are not supporting or calling for a second referendum. What we’ve called for is a meaningful vote in Parliament.’
Numerous backbenchers have said they want to see a second referendum on a Brexit deal.
By conference 2018 internal debate over a second referendum prompted more than 150 different motions on the issue. A ‘composited’ version invites members to back a new general election but leave a ‘People’s Vote’ on the table.
Senior Labour figures have split on what any second referendum should mean – with some, such as Len McCluskey and John McDonnell insisting remaining in the EU cannot be on the ballot – but Sir Keir Starmer has said the motion means it could be.
In December last year, Sir Keir Starmer said he would like a ‘Norway-style treaty’ and as a result ‘there may have to be payments to be negotiated’
After the election in June last year, Mr Corbyn sacked three frontbenchers for voting in favour of a Commons motion calling for the UK to stay in the single market.
The same month shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘I think people will interpret membership of the single market as not respecting that referendum.’
However, the following September Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said single market membership was possible ‘if the European Union wanted to talk about reform of freedom of movement rules’.
Sir Keir Starmer has said the party wants ‘a partnership that retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union’.
Labour whipped its peers to abstain from a vote in favour of the single market earlier this month, but the instructions were largely ignored and many backed the idea.
Mr Corbyn briefed MPs on his single market stance at a behind closed doors meeting on May 14. But they did not seem entirely clear on his position, with one backbencher emerging to say he had left the prospect open, but another saying he had made clear the option was ‘dead’.
A massive rebellion is expected in a Commons vote that could happen next month.
Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner said in July 2017 that staying in the EU customs union would be a ‘disaster’ as it would entail an ‘asymmetrical relationship’ and damage Britain’s ability to make deals with other countries.
But in February this year Sir Keir confirmed that the party wants to stay in a customs union with the bloc – although not the current one because that would mean EU membership. He said ‘the only way realistically’ for the UK to get tariff-free access to the EU.
The following month Emily Thornberry said Labour wanted to maintain the existing customs union.
Last month Barry Gardiner was caught on mic giving a withering assessment of Labour’s six tests for approving a Brexit deal, saying they were ‘b*****cks’
‘What we want to do is we want to remain in the customs union,’ she said. ‘We don’t want any faffing around with any of the nonsense that the Government is coming up with in relation to alternatives to the customs union. We want to remain in the customs union.’
Last month Mr Gardiner was caught on mic giving a withering assessment of Labour’s six tests for approving a Brexit deal, saying they were ‘b*****cks’.
‘We know very well that we cannot have the exact same benefits,’ he said.
Mr Gardiner has also suggested that fears over the Irish border are being whipped up for ‘political’ reasons.
PAYING FOR ACCESS TO MARKETS
In December last year, Sir Keir said he would like a ‘Norway-style treaty’ and as a result ‘there may have to be payments to be negotiated’.
However, in January this year, John McDonnell said ‘I don’t understand why we would have to pay’ for access to the single market.
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