U.K. Opposition Leader Favors Renegotiation Over New Brexit Vote

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn ruled out backing a new referendum on leaving the European Union, telling the Guardian he would prefer to renegotiate a customs arrangement with the bloc in a decision that disappointed some party members.

Corbyn, who has been pressed to back a grassroots effort for another referendum, said the House of Commons should proceed with its vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal measure, which is opposed by most parties and many of her own Conservative lawmakers.

“I think we should vote down this deal; we should then go back to the EU with a discussion about a customs union,” Corbyn said in the interview published Saturday. “My proposal at this moment is that we go forward, trying to get a customs union with the EU, in which we would be able to be proper trading partners.”

Parliament is on its Christmas recess until Jan. 7. May this month postponed a vote on the Brexit package she’s painstakingly negotiated with the EU because she didn’t have the votes. She is trying everything she can to win support among increasingly suspicious lawmakers for the divorce deal. A new vote is set for the week of Jan. 14.

Labour’s former business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, said Corbyn’s decision was “deeply depressing and disappointing.”

‘Solves Nothing’

“Brexit is essentially a project of the hard right of British politics who want to turn Britain into a lightly regulated, offshore tax haven for the super rich, devoid of proper protections for workers,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Labour should stop pretending there is ‘good’ Brexit deal and we should certainly not be sponsoring this project because Brexit is the problem - it solves nothing.”

Corbyn insisted that even if his party won a snap general election in 2019, he would go to Brussels and try to secure a better deal, if possible, in time to allow Brexit to go ahead on March 29.

Corbyn said he disagreed with Work and Pension Secretary Amber Rudd, who this week said a “plausible” case could emerge for a new referendum if it becomes clear Parliament is deadlocked. She said she is not seeking a new vote.

A Labour decision on a referendum would be a matter for the party’s membership, Corbyn said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.