We’ve learned plenty about Labour’s uncertain Brexit policy from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech – and if there’s a general election, there’ll be profound implications for Britain
Jeremy Corbyn today gave a major speech aiming to look beyond the woes of Brexit to a better Britain.
Labour’s leader demanded a general election to “rebuild” a Britain of Leave and Remain voters no longer up against each other.
He told an audience in Wakefield both sides have rising debts, insecure work and food banks adding: “You’re up against it. But you’re not against each other.”
But for all his attempt to move the dial, the focus was of course on Brexit – and he said some important things about it.
The party leader clarified his stance on some issues that will be crucial if Theresa May’s deal is voted down on Tuesday.
Here are some of the most important things we’ve learned from his speech in Wakefield.
1. Labour’s set to DELAY the date of Brexit
He said there would “need to be time” to negotiate his “practical and achievable” alternative with the EU as his party would be “right up against the clock”.
If he forces a no confidence vote, it’s thought the earliest possible date for a general election would be March 7 – three weeks before Brexit Day.
Yesterday Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said extending the date, set by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, may be “inevitable”.
And today Mr Corbyn confirmed: “Quite clearly moving into office, a period right up against the clock, there would need to be time for that negotiation.
“So what Keir was doing was reflecting the practicalities of how that negotiation would be undertaken.”
2. The party’s whole policy could change dramatically
The leader conceded it’s out of his hands whether Labour makes a dramatic shift in policy for an election campaign.
Anti-Brexit activists have been calling on him to take a position of opposing Brexit or promising a second EU referendum.
And he conceded Labour’s manifesto is effectively written by committee, with scores of reps having an input, rather than by him.
He said: “Our policy would be to negotiate urgently with the EU as and when we take office.
“But clearly a general election must come first in order to do that.
“Policy-making is made by the Labour Party in a democratic form and that policy will be put together and put into a manifesto in any election that’s coming up.”
3. Labour WILL definitely vote down Theresa May’s deal next week
Eyebrows were raised recently when an ultra-loyalist blog, Skwawkbox, published an analysis saying Labour could abstain on the deal.
The logic was that it would allow the Brexit deal to pass, forcing the DUP to join with Labour in a no confidence vote.
But Mr Corbyn confirmed: “Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal for our country and Labour will vote against it next week in Parliament.”
4. But a no confidence vote might NOT come immediately
Shadow Cabinet ministers yesterday suggested Labour would force an “immediate” no confidence vote.
But without the backing of the DUP, Labour may not have any chance of winning it – and Jeremy Corbyn admitted that.
So there could well be a delay.
Mr Corbyn said if Mrs May is defeated and refuses to call a general election, “Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government at the moment we judge it to have the best chance of success.
“Clearly, Labour does not have enough MPs at the moment in parliament to win a confidence vote on its own.
“So members across the House should vote with us to break the deadlock.”
5. He utterly trashed Theresa May’s olive branch to Labour MPs
We revealed the Prime Minister is ready to accept an amendment, tabled by Labour MPs in Leave seats, pledging not to lower any EU standards on workers or the environment.
As many as 20 backbench Labour MPs could back the bid, which supporter John Mann said would make her deal “more attractive”.
But Jeremy Corbyn joined union chiefs and his shadow ministers in comprehensively ditching her olive branch.
He said: “It’s already been quite clearly and emphatically rejected by the TUC and leading trade unions. They say it simply doesn’t guarantee the protections that we are seeking.
“We don’t endorse or accept what has been put forward and we agree with the TUC and the other general secretaries who have already rejected that view.”
6. But he also reached out to Leave voters
Labour’s leader showed he’s not going to give up support for Brexit any time soon – by reaching out to Leave voters.
He said: “Any political leader who wants to bring the country together cannot wish away the votes of 17 million people who wanted to leave, any more than they can ignore the concerns of the 16 million who voted to remain.”
He added: “Some see the EU as a defence against insecurity and hostility.
“Others see the EU as part of an establishment that plunged them into insecurity and hostility in the first place.”
7. And he still won’t make a second EU referendum his priority
Labour activists and some trade union leaders are demanding Labour properly backs a second EU referendum.