Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election in his response to the Prime Minister’s Brexit statement today.
Outlining the reasons for which Labour would not be supporting Theresa May’s “new bold offer”, the Labour leader pointed out that “no compromise would survive the upcoming Tory leadership contest”.
He also described the 10-point plan as “riddled with contradictions and wishful thinking”, arguing that it does not “represent a genuine compromise”.
Corbyn raised the insolvency of British Steel, which threatens thousands of jobs, and said the government should be “prepared to step in”. Labour has urged for the company to be brought into public ownership.
The opposition leader concluded: “That is why it is time for a general election to break the Brexit deadlock and give the country a say.”
Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Brexit statement.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance copy of this statement. In fact, I received it yesterday when the Prime Minister made an appeal titled “Seeking Common Ground in Parliament”. And where did she make this appeal? Not in parliament but in a small room just down the road.
Mr Speaker, it is now clear the bold new deal the Prime Minister promised is little more than a repackaged version of her three times-rejected deal. The rhetoric may have changed but the deal has not. I thank the Prime Minister for her letter. It offers no change on a customs union, no change on Single Market alignment and no dynamic alignment on environmental protections.
This Government is too weak and too divided to get this country out of the mess they have created. For over two years, the Prime Minister bullishly refused to consult the public or Parliament. She did not seek a compromise until after she had missed her own deadline to leave. And by the time she finally did she had lost the authority to deliver.
That became evident during the six weeks of cross-party talks that ended last week – talks that were entered into constructively on both sides to see if a compromise was possible.
But while those talks were going on, Cabinet minister after Cabinet minister made statements undermining what their colleagues in the room were offering. The Foreign Secretary, Leader of the House, International Trade Secretary, and Treasury Chief Secretary all made clear they would not tolerate a deal which included a customs union, while Tory leadership contender after Tory leadership contender took it in turns to make it absolutely clear that any compromise deal would not be honoured.
Therefore, Mr Speaker, no matter what the Prime Minister offers, it is clear no compromise would survive the upcoming Tory leadership contest.
The multiple leaks reported from Cabinet yesterday show the Prime Minister couldn’t even get the compromise deal she wanted through her own Cabinet. And it is clear that the shrunken offer that emerged satisfied no one, not her own backbenchers, not the DUP and, Mr Speaker, not the Official Opposition either.
No Labour MP can vote for a deal on the promise of a Prime Minister who only has days left in her job. Even if the Prime Minister could honour her promises, the deal she is putting before us doesn’t represent a genuine compromise.
Her 10 point plan is riddled with contradiction and wishful thinking.
Firstly, the Prime Minister pretends she is delivering something new with a temporary customs union. This isn’t a compromise – it’s just accepting the reality.
Under the withdrawal agreement we will already be in a temporary customs union through the transition period – which can last up to 4 years.
And if not we will enter the backstop – which in effect keeps us in a customs union too, without any say.
Secondly, why would this House legislate for a plan which is has already been comprehensively rejected by the EU?
The Government wants to align with the EU on goods to keep frictionless trade, while at the same time wants to pursue trade deals which would undermine this. It’s simply not compatible.
The technology they need to continue to pursue their Chequers plan doesn’t exist, has already been ruled out by the EU as illegal, impractical and an invitation to fraud.
And, Mr Speaker, the Government has failed to provide any economic analysis to show this would make us better off.
Why would the House support such a chaotic, desperate approach?
Labour set out a sensible compromise plan over a year ago, including a comprehensive and permanent customs union with the EU that gives us a say. That would allow us to strike trade deals as part of the world’s biggest trading bloc bringing investment while maintaining the highest standards.
It is credible and achievable and the best way to protect industry, manufacturing and jobs something this Government is woefully indifferent to as the latest steel crisis shows.
The Government must be prepared to step in and take a public stake to save thousands of high skilled jobs at British Steel a foundation industry for any major economy.
Instead, the Tory obsession is for striking trade deals with the likes of Donald Trump. They prioritise chlorinated chicken, further NHS privatisation and deregulation over protecting supply chains and jobs in this country.
On workers’ rights, Mr Speaker, we have yet to see the full package the Government intends to bring forward.
But many in the Trade union movement remain deeply sceptical. As Francis O’Grady of the TUC said yesterday and I quote: “This reheated Brexit deal won’t protect people’s jobs and rights”.
On environmental protections, it is clear the Prime Minister is not offering dynamic alignment and that under her proposals the UK could fall behind in a number of areas, with only a toothless regulator under the control of the Environment Secretary in place of binding international commitments.
Finally, Mr Speaker, on the issue of a confirmatory vote, I’m sure nobody here will be fooled by what the Prime minister is offering.
Will the Prime Minister tell us now if this offer is genuine. Will she give her party a free vote on this issue or will she as before whip against a confirmatory referendum?
If the Government truly believes this is the best deal for the economy and for jobs, they should not fear putting it back to the people.
Mr Speaker, for too long, our politics has been seen through a prism of leave or remain. This is dividing our society and poisoning our democracy.
It means vital issues are being neglected by Government the crisis in our schools and hospitals the housing crisis and the cruelty of their social security policy.
Our country needs leadership to bring us together. However, this Prime Minister is not the person to do this.
Throughout the last 3 years, she has made no attempt to unite the country. She has been focused only on keeping her divided party together. It hasn’t worked.
And now her time has now run out. She no longer has the authority to offer a compromise and cannot deliver.
That is why it is time for a general election to break the Brexit deadlock and give the country a say.