‘It would have to be a credible choice that’s real’ – @jeremycorbyn discusses his ‘enthusiasm’ for a second referendum but says his priority is making sure that the UK doesn’t ‘crash out’ of Europe on March 29. #Ridge
— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) March 17, 2019
Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed by Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday. This is what we learnt…
1. Labour is still campaigning for its Brexit plan.
Every time Jeremy Corbyn was asked about Labour’s Brexit policy, he described the party’s alternative plan to Sky’s Sophy Ridge. On the “five points” set out in his amendment tabled in February, and originally in a letter to the Prime Minister, the opposition leader said: “I’m reaching out to MPs across all parties to discuss those at the moment.”
Then, describing “our proposals of a customs union, market access and guaranteeing rights and environment and consumer protections” as “the credible ones”, he reiterated: “that’s what we’re putting forward”.
2. But Labour is set to support an amendment proposing another referendum.
Although the leadership had promised to back a ‘people’s vote’ amendment at the second meaningful vote, the People’s Vote campaign recommended that the move be delayed. It was widely recognised that it would otherwise have been heavily defeated in parliament – and possibly taken off the table as a result.
It is now expected that Labour will make the move this week, when MPs vote on Theresa May’s deal for a third time, in the form of ‘Kyle/Wilson’ – an amendment tabled by Labour backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson. Asked whether he would be whipping in favour of it, Corbyn replied: “If the amendment is as I have just set out, then, yes, we will be supporting it. But we’ve obviously got to see the wording of it, and Peter and Phil are discussing that.”
It was unclear in the interview what had just been “set out” as terms for agreeing to the amendment. But it is understood that the Labour leadership would prefer not to support May’s deal, but to withhold support (and abstain in the vote) on the condition that it is put to a ‘confirmatory ballot’. Kyle and Wilson’s Guardian piece tells us that their amendment will take this shape.
3. Jeremy Corbyn’s “enthusiasm” for another referendum will continue to be doubted.
“Are you enthusiastic about a second referendum?” Ridge asked. “I’m enthusiastic – I’m enthusiastic about getting a deal with Europe which guarantees our future trading relationship and protects jobs and industries in this country,” Corbyn replied. “And I do think… I do think people should have a choice on that.” His reply, which referred to securing a deal rather than the possibility of stopping Brexit, sparked criticism.
4. Blocking ‘no deal’ is the priority.
Labour’s support for its alternative Brexit plan and another referendum, plus its discussions with MPs about Common Market 2.0, is all about making prevention of a ‘no deal’ Brexit the priority.
5. Corbyn could vote to leave in a new referendum.
Asked whether he would vote to remain, Corbyn replied: “It depends what the choice is in front of us. If we’ve got a good deal in which we can have a dynamic relationship with Europe, which is all the trading relationships and so on, then that might be a good way forward that unites the country.”
When the question was repeated, he confirmed: “It depends what the relationship is we’ve agreed in the future.” His answers imply that he could very well campaign to leave if Labour’s alternative plan were on the ballot paper (rather than May’s deal).
6. We can expect another no-confidence motion soon.
Noting that the government reportedly intends to bring its deal back to a third meaningful vote this week, which it is widely expected to lose again, Corbyn said: “I think at that point a confidence motion will be appropriate. I think at that point we should say there has to be a general election.”
Pressed further on the timing, he added: “We’ll obviously decide the exact moment, but quite obviously we don’t have confidence in this government’s ability and indeed parliament doesn’t.”
7. Ken Clarke may be Corbyn’s favourite Tory.
“Are there any Conservative MPs that you particularly admire?” Ridge inquired. “I think there’s… well, I suppose I’ve known Kenneth Clarke for so long and we’ve disagreed on so many things for so long, we actually personally get along okay.”
8. Corbyn would prefer a short extension to Article 50.
“It’s tight, but I think it’s possible to do what’s necessary during that time,” Corbyn said of a three-month delay to Brexit. “A longer extension has legal complications concerning membership of the EU and European elections. So the impression I got from the EU was they were not keen on extending beyond June.”
Supporters of a fresh public vote may be concerned about Corbyn’s reluctance to back a longer extension, as this would be required for parliament to legislate for a referendum.