Tuesday 10 January 2017

Jeremy Corbyn: UK Can Be Better Off Out Of The EU

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn will use his first speech of 2017 to claim that Britain can be better off outside the EU and insist that the Labour party has no principled objection to ending the free movement of European workers in the UK.

Setting out his party’s pitch on Brexit in the year that Theresa May will trigger article 50, the Labour leader will also reach for the language of leave campaigners by promising to deliver on a pledge to spend millions of pounds extra on the NHS every week.

He will say Labour’s priority in EU negotiations will remain full access to the European single market, but that his party wants “managed migration” and to repatriate powers from Brussels that would allow governments to intervene in struggling industries such as steel. Sources suggested that the economic demands were about tariff-free access to the single market, rather than membership that they argued did not exist.

Corbyn’s speech and planned media appearances represent the first example of a new anti-establishment drive designed by strategists to emphasise and spread his image as a leftwing populist to a new set of voters. They hope the revamp will help overturn poor poll ratings across the country, particularly with a looming byelection in Copeland, Cumbria.

Speaking in Peterborough, chosen because it is a marginal Tory seat that voted heavily in favour of Brexit, and which Labour is targeting, Corbyn will lay into May’s failure to reveal any Brexit planning, and say that Labour will not give the government a free pass in the negotiations.

After comparing the prime minister’s refusal to offer MPs a vote on the final Brexit deal to the behaviour of Henry VIII in a Guardian interview, Corbyn will say: “Not since the second world war has Britain’s ruling elite so recklessly put the country in such an exposed position without a plan.”

In a town that has experienced high rates of change in terms of migration, he will use his strongest language yet on the subject.

“Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle. But nor can we afford to lose full access to the European single market on which so many British businesses and jobs depend. Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations,” he will say.

“Labour supports fair rules and reasonably managed migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU.”

Corbyn will also say, however, that there will be no “false promises on immigration” and that his party will not echo the Conservatives by promising to bring the numbers down to the tens of thousands.

Instead, he will repeat an argument that action against the undercutting of pay and conditions, closing down labour loopholes and banning jobs being exclusively advertised abroad could bring down the amount of people travelling to the UK.

“That would have the effect of reducing numbers of EU migrant workers in the most deregulated sectors, regardless of the final Brexit deal,” he will say.

The speech comes as tensions grow within the Labour party as a number of high profile MPs, including the deputy leader, Tom Watson, and home affairs committee chair, Yvette Cooper, suggest that the party has to change its position on free movement.

This weekend two MPs – Emma Reynolds and Stephen Kinnock – suggested the time had come for a two-tier system under which highly skilled workers such as doctors could travel to Britain for confirmed jobs, while there would be quotas for lower-skilled workers. They argued that the EU referendum “was a vote for change on immigration”, an argument that May has also made.

Reynolds, who is a member of the select committee on leaving the EU, said she welcomed Corbyn’s commitment to managed migration but that the party had to understand what that meant.

Corbyn has been criticised from within the party for failing to talk about free movement reform, often stressing the positive impact of migration instead. Some MPs fear the position could cost the party votes across the north of England and the midlands where voters have been deserting Labour over the past decade.

Corbyn will also use his speech to try to contrast Labour and the Conservatives over the NHS after the British Red Cross said the health service was facing a humanitarian crisis.

“The Tory Brexiteers and their Ukip allies promised that Brexit would guarantee funding for the NHS to the tune of £350m a week. The pledge has already been ditched,” he will say, promising to end underfunding and privatisation.

“The British people voted to refinance the NHS, and we will deliver it.,” he will say. Sources would not say whether that would necessarily amount to a commitment of £350m a week.

As politicians and academics grapple to explain June’s Brexit vote, the party leader will provide his interpretation, arguing that it was about regaining control over the economy, democracy and people’s lives.

“We will push to maintain full access to the European single market to protect living standards and jobs,” he will say. “But we will also press to repatriate powers from Brussels for the British government to develop a genuine industrial strategy essential for the economy of the future.”

Corbyn has objected to EU state aid rules that prevent governments from intervening in industries such as steel. He also wants to make arguments about taking back control of the jobs market with collective bargaining agreements in key sectors and ending “the unscrupulous use of agency labour and bogus self-employment”.



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