Corbyn insists Labour not clamping down on conference debate
He spoke out after the motion to the Scottish Labour conference on Brexit failed to make reference to keeping the UK in the single market.
Jeremy Corbyn has denied any suggestion that Labour is blocking debate after it emerged the party’s Scottish conference will not get the chance to vote on single market membership.
It comes after a “unity motion” for the event in Dundee – which crucially contains no mention of the single market – was unanimously supported by the Scottish Executive late on Thursday.
This is despite a new group in the party – supported by Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, former leader Kezia Dugdale and MEP Catherine Stihler – calling for a policy of permanent membership.
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The issue of Brexit will be debated by party members at the conference on Sunday.
When asked if the leadership was clamping down on democratic debate, Mr Corbyn insisted: “Absolutely not.”
The Labour leader said: “The Scottish Executive is putting forward statements to conference which are then debated at conference.
“This is an open democratic conference with lots of new members and it’s the biggest conference for years.
“What is there not to like about that?”
While Labour’s policy is for the UK to be in a customs union with the European Union after Brexit, it does not support continued single market membership – although several motions backing this were submitted to Scottish conference organisers.
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A party spokesman said the motion that had been agreed for debate “recognises that since individual motions were submitted, the situation regarding Brexit has changed significantly”.
The agreed motion supports shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer’s “six tests” for a deal to leave the EU – including whether it delivers the “exact same benefits” as being members of the single market and customs union.
The Scottish Labour spokesman added: “Jeremy Corbyn has outlined a proposal that puts clear red water between Labour and the Tories and the SNP government has introduced unprecedented legislation in the form of the EU Continuity Bill.
“This is a motion which takes cognisance of the fast-changing nature of the Brexit debate in Scotland and allows the party to unite behind a common goal – putting the interests of working people first.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “People will in the end have a choice whether to accept the executive statement or to vote for an alternative so in the end it will be the conference that will decide so I’m quite happy that we’re conducting this in a very open and democratic way.”
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland: “When the conference debates Brexit on Sunday morning it will have an opportunity to debate propositions put forward by local Labour parties, including those which advocate the case for the Labour Party declaring at this point that we want to see full membership of the single market.
“But they will also then have to consider whether they want to support that position or a position which was agreed by the party executive which represents a unified position which keeps, frankly, that option open but which doesn’t commit us at this point to that as the only option on the table.”
He added: “The conference delegates will have a choice as to whether they support the statement drawn up and agreed upon by the executive last night or whether they prefer to support the half a dozen local Labour parties who put forward the proposition that the Scottish Labour party at this stage should pin all its colours to the mast of continued membership of the single market.”