Labour’s McDonnell Points to Tory Austerity as May Woos His Party on Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- John McDonnell, economy spokesman for the U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party, said Prime Minister Theresa May should be judged on her record after she sought to woo his colleagues to support her Brexit deal.

Ministers met with Labour lawmakers this week to try to persuade them to back May’s divorce agreement with the EU in return for cash for deprived districts, enhanced employment rights and protection for the environment.

Labour’s McDonnell Points to Tory Austerity as May Woos His Party on Brexit

“The Tories have subjected our communities to a near decade of brutal austerity, with long-term industrial neglect and a dramatic surge in poverty taking place on their watch,” McDonnell said. “Only Labour in government can deliver a prosperous, thriving and fair economy.”

May’s Brexit deal was emphatically rejected by Parliament on Jan. 15, and in a vote Tuesday she won a mandate to go back to Brussels to change it before returning to Parliament for another try. At least 25 Labour MPs have shown they might be willing to defy party instructions and vote with the government on Brexit issues, and ministers are in a race against time to win their support.

One Labour MP involved in discussions said the focus was on securing guarantees that money that currently comes from the EU would continue to flow to hard-up areas after Britain leaves the bloc.

On Saturday, McDonnell will tell activists in Stoke-on-Trent -- which voted for Brexit more emphatically than any other city -- that it and other industrial areas left behind by globalization have been treated unfairly by May and her predecessor David Cameron.

“My aim is to ensure that Stoke-on-Trent receives its fair share of government funding to grow a vibrant and prosperous local economy,” he will say, according to speech extracts released by his office. A Labour government would “tax the rich and giant corporations to end austerity, fund our public services properly, and rebuild our economy,” he will say.

While in Stoke, McDonnell will also meet with Labour’s network of Community Organisers, who have stepped up preparations for a possible snap general election as Britain’s crisis over Brexit has deepened, his office said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.