Corbyn Calls for General Election If May's Brexit Deal Founders
(Bloomberg) -- Opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn will call on Prime Minister Theresa May to let voters decide on her Brexit deal if Parliament rejects it next week -- in a general election.
A fresh election is the only way to break the deadlock, with under three months to go until Britain is due to leave the European Union, Corbyn will say in a speech in Wakefield, northern England, on Thursday. He’ll repeat his pledge that the party will vote down May’s deal, which looks almost certain to be rejected by Parliament because of the scale of opposition to it among her own Conservatives and her allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
“If the government cannot pass its most important legislation, then there must be a general election at the earliest opportunity," Corbyn will say, according to extracts emailed by his party. "A government that cannot get its business through the House of Commons is no government at all. So I say to Theresa May: if you are so confident in your deal, call that election, and let the people decide."
Thursday’s speech is a rare public intervention on Brexit by Corbyn, who’s been criticized by members of his own party for his lackluster campaign in the 2016 referendum. Under party policy agreed last year, if May refuses to call an election, Labour may then pivot to pushing for a second referendum.
That’s an option many of Corbyn’s rank-and-file lawmakers are already calling for, alongside other opposition parties. They’re frustrated that Corbyn, a longtime Euroskeptic who voted for Remain in the 2016 referendum, has refused to push for a new vote, even as polling shows the majority of Labour voters support one.
“It is shameful that Corbyn continues to sit on the fence on the biggest issue this country has faced since the Second World War,” Tom Brake, spokesman on Brexit for the Liberal Democrats, said in a statement. “If Corbyn really wants to know what the public thinks of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, he should support a people’s vote.”
The Conservatives, for their part, issued a statement saying “Labour simply do not have a plan for Brexit.”
Five days of debate on May’s deal started Wednesday, with lawmakers already defeating the government, forcing through a provision that means May will have to come back to Parliament within three days of her expected defeat next week to spell out her next steps.
Labour, for its part, has said it’ll call a vote of no confidence in the government in the wake of any parliamentary defeat for May’s deal, if it feels it can win it.
Corbyn will say that a new government will have a fresh mandate to negotiate a better deal with the EU. He’ll say Labour aims to unify the nation, and that little differentiates a Remain voter from Tottenham in North London with a Leave voter from Mansfield, northern England.
“People across the country, whether they voted Leave or Remain, both know that the system isn’t working for them,” he’ll say. “Some see the European Union as a defense against insecurity and hostility. Others see the European Union as part of an establishment that plunged them into insecurity and hostility in the first place.”
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