Jeremy Corbyn is facing down his critics and going on the attack with a major Brexit speech in Harlow this morning. The Labour leader will vow to “get Brexit sorted within six months by giving you, the British people, the final say”. The timetable would see a new, “sensible” deal negotiated in three months – which is entirely reasonable, Keir Starmer tells broadcasters, as Labour has been in touch with the EU over the last few years and knows what is practical – and then a fresh referendum sorted out through parliament before being held by July. Corbyn will compare Labour’s plan to that of Boris Johnson, who he says is “trying to hijack Brexit to sell out our NHS and working people”.
The Labour leader isn’t holding back on criticism of the Tory deal. Diving into the detail of how it has the potential to affect our NHS through a harmful trade agreement with the US, Corbyn says Johnson’s Brexit could see £500m a week “taken out of the NHS and handed to big drugs companies”. This ties in with Labour’s conference policy announcement that it would implement measures to secure medicines at an affordable price “for the many”. Corbyn is also going to get across vivid and disgusting imagery, asserting that food standards could be dragged down to US levels where certain amounts of “rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed”. Chlorinated chicken cut through as a message – the hope is that these other grim details will do the same.
Boris Johnson wrote to Corbyn last night to reiterate perceived flaws in Labour’s Brexit plan, particularly the ambitious timetable and whether the leader would campaign against his own deal. This speech is a response to such points, and offers something Corbyn can show as evidence that he isn’t shying away from Brexit – even if Labour doesn’t think it’s the only crucial issue in this election, and Corbyn still doesn’t think it would be a good idea to reveal his voting intention before fresh negotiations. But this speech, delivered in the key target of Leave-voting Harlow where left-wing candidate Laura McAlpine is fighting for Labour, doesn’t only have to rebut attacks from the Tories. Nigel Farage yesterday confirmed that Labour Leavers are his “number one target”, and it is fair to assess that the decision to stand Brexit Party candidates in every seat outside Northern Ireland could harm Labour’s chances of forming a majority most of all. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.