Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech today in Hastings.
I thank Thelma for coming to Hastings to introduce me today, a head teacher who won her seat in Colne Valley in 2017. I’m also delighted to be alongside my good friend Peter Chowney, Labour’s candidate and the next MP for Hastings and Rye. The sense of hopelessness that so many south coast towns face will be stopped, challenged and changed by a Labour government.
The Prime Minister has suffered a devastating defeat on the most important issue facing the country. The central policy of her government has been decisively rejected. Her deal with the EU is finished. The scale of Tuesday’s vote against it was so great there can now be no question of tweaks or sweeteners from Brussels to bring it back to life.
The government’s deal is dead. She put it to parliament and it was emphatically rejected. The Prime Minister seems unable to grasp what has happened. She still seems prepared to send the country hurtling towards the cliff edge. To get a deal that can command a majority in parliament, Theresa May has to ditch the red lines and get serious about proposals for the future.
Last night’s offer of talks with party leaders turned out to be simply a stunt, not the serious attempt to engage with the new reality that’s needed. No sooner had she said the words in parliament than the government confirmed that she would not take No Deal off the table.
So I say to the Prime Minister again: I am quite happy to talk. But the starting point for any talks about Brexit must be that the threat of a disastrous No Deal outcome is ruled out. If she won’t accept the will of parliament and take No Deal off the table, it will show that she simply isn’t serious about reaching a deal.
With No Deal still on the table, the prime minister would enter into phoney talks just to run down the clock and try to blackmail MPs to vote through her botched deal on a second attempt by threatening the country with the chaos of No Deal if they resist a second time.
Instead, Theresa May should show us that she is serious about getting a deal that parliament supports and that brings the country together, by immediately ending the waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money preparing for a No Deal outcome which cannot take place.
The government has spent £4.8 billion on preparing for a No Deal scenario. That money should be going instead to support our cash-starved public services. No Deal would risk huge damage to our economy, jobs and living standards. About that there is no doubt.
So Labour is open to discussions. Because we must end the crisis caused by the government’s botched Brexit negotiations and find a solution that meets the needs of the whole country. We, the Labour Party, have set out our alternative plan, and I have made clear we would support a deal on that basis.
The government may have survived a confidence vote, for now. But we have a government in name only. The scale of the defeat on Tuesday has shredded the last vestiges of its authority. If the government had any confidence in itself it would go back to the people for a new mandate.
While Brexit consumes all the government’s energy, the vital issues that affect people most directly – cash-starved schools, the NHS at breaking point, rising bills, unaffordable housing – have all gone to the back of the queue.
Two and a half years of Brexit bungling and failure have left parliament in deadlock. Nothing can be decided. Nothing can get done. We believe that the best outcome for the country remains a general election to break the deadlock and find a solution that works for the whole country.
And that is why I tabled a motion of confidence, and we will come back with it again if necessary. In the meantime, all options are on the table. We are serious about finding a way through. Given the severity of the crisis, it would be wrong to rule any of them out.
Our first option is the alternative plan we have laid out over the past year. Labour will put down our own amendment next week, setting out our alternative plan based around a permanent customs union with a British say in future trade deals; a strong single market relationship; and a guarantee at least to keep pace with EU rights at work, environmental protections, and consumer standards.
Those three elements provide the essential building blocks of a sensible deal with the clear potential to win majority support in parliament. And I believe such a deal would help to bring people together and overcome the divisions in our country.
But if the government remains intransigent, if support for Labour’s alternative is blocked for party advantage, and the country is facing the potential disaster of No Deal, our duty will then be to look at other options which we’ve set out in our conference motion, including the option of a public vote.
We are in this position because the Conservatives and other parties have deliberately chosen to deepen divisions, setting those who voted leave against those who voted remain. Labour is the only party that has consistently sought to bring people together and find a way through that respects people’s concerns, whichever way they voted in the referendum.
Because I believe that the real divide in our country is not between leave and remain. It’s between the many who do the work, create the wealth and pay their taxes, work in our society, deliver for the rest of us – and those others, those few who set the rules, reap the rewards and dodge their taxes.
On Tuesday, while the country’s attention was fixed on Westminster and the vote that took place, we had yet another demonstration of that harsh reality. The Department of Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd’s department, quietly announced another cut to social security, which according to Age UK could leave some couples up to £7,000 a year worse off.
This latest cut will force yet more people onto the government’s cruel Universal Credit scheme. Couples in which only one spouse is a pensioner will no longer be entitled to Pension Credit. So just imagine this: if you’ve paid into the system all your life, you’ve retired on a low income and now the government decides you’ll be poorer just because your partner is younger than you. That’s disgraceful, that’s wrong. How typical of the Tories.
Whether they voted leave or remain people want an end to these injustices. Remember the vast majority of people don’t think of themselves as ‘Remainers’ or ‘Leavers’, however they’re regarded by the media or the political class.
And if we allow people to be permanently divided along artificial lines, it’s only the privileged elite that will benefit – while the majority lose out.