Jeremy Corbyn calls for new UK election if MPs vote down PM May’s Brexit deal
Labour leader’s message to prime minister: ‘If you can’t negotiate that deal then you need to make way for a party that can’
Jeremy Corbyn said Labour MPs will vote against Theresa May’s Chequers plan if it forms the basis of the final Brexit deal with Brussels, and declared the prime minister would have to call a general election if she could not get it through parliament.
The Labour leader made the declaration at the end of an hour-long address at a party conference in Liverpool.
“As it stands, Labour will vote against the Chequers plan – or whatever is left of it – and oppose leaving the EU with no deal,” he told delegates.
Leaving the EU without a deal would be “a national disaster”, he said, adding: “If parliament votes down a Tory deal or the government fails to reach any deal at all we would press for a general election.”
Corbyn’s declaration increases the chance of May not being able to get a final Brexit deal through parliament, given that the European Research Group faction in the Conservative party has repeatedly said it would also vote against Chequers.
He made an oblique reference to holding a second referendum – the issue that has dominated conference – saying if it was not possible to have a general election then all options were on the table.
He told May that Labour would be prepared to vote through a final deal, but only on his party’s terms.
“If you deliver a deal that includes a customs union and no hard border in Ireland, if you protect jobs, people’s rights at work and environmental and consumer standards, then we will support that sensible deal. A deal that would be backed by most of the business world and trade unions too.”
To the loudest cheer of his speech, Corbyn concluded: “But if you can’t negotiate that deal then you need to make way for a party that can.”
The speech contained few new policy pledges, instead citing announcements made by frontbench colleagues throughout conference; although Corbyn did, as had been trailed, promise a green energy policy he claimed would create 400,000 new jobs by 2030.
He sought to paint a picture of a Conservative government presiding over “eight years of destructive austerity” and said ministers were engaged in “social vandalism” that had damaged public services.
Corbyn accused the Tories of putting “tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of care for disabled people” and said Labour was “ready to put fairness and humanity at the heart of our public services”.
On Thursday, Corbyn will meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to explain his party’s position at a time when European Commission officials are increasingly concerned that the UK will be unable to agree a final deal, making them fear a no-deal Brexit is more likely.
May’s Chequers proposals would keep the UK signed to a common rule book of standards for food and goods after the country leaves the EU. May has repeatedly defended the scheme, although the European Commission has said it will come back with its own counter proposals next month as Brexit talks reach their final phase.