Corbyn says Labour will heal the divisions opened up by Brexit
The Labour leader launches his party’s European election campaign with an appeal to Leavers and Remainers to come together.
Jeremy Corbyn will claim that Labour can “unite our country” and heal the divisions caused by Brexit as he launches his campaign for the European elections.
After a bitter internal row within Labour over whether to support a second referendum, Mr Corbyn will say that the party backs “the option of a public vote” if a “sensible” Brexit deal cannot be agreed and there is not a general election.
He will promise to address the “inequalities that helped fuel” the 2016 Brexit vote, insisting that the “real divide in our country” is not over Europe.
The May 23 election will take place because of Parliament’s deadlock over a Brexit deal and the failure of Labour-Tory talks.
Mr Corbyn will pin the blame on Theresa May’s Government’s “complete failure on Brexit”.
His attack comes after the Government and Labour agreed on Wednesday to resume their cross-party talks next week which are aimed at finding a compromise deal that can command a Commons majority.
Downing Street said it followed a second day of “extended” discussions in Whitehall which “demonstrates the seriousness with which both sides are approaching these talks”.
A No 10 spokesman said there would be more meetings of the working groups looking at specific issues as well as further exchanges of documents.
Mrs May’s official spokesman told reporters on Thursday: “The discussions have been serious across a number of different areas, but clearly there remain outstanding matters that need to be nailed down.
“There is definitely significant work still to do if we are to find a unified way forward.”
A Labour Party spokesman said the negotiating teams were working to establish the “scope for agreement” and would meet again at the beginning of next week.
Launching Labour’s campaign in a Leave-supporting area of Kent, Mr Corbyn will issue an appeal to both sides of the Brexit debate.
The real divide in our country is not how people voted in the EU referendum. The real divide is between the many and the few Jeremy Corbyn
“To transform our country, and tackle injustice, inequality and the climate crisis, we need to unite the overwhelming majority of people and take on the privileged and powerful,” he will say.
“That’s why we insist the real divide in our country is not how people voted in the EU referendum.
“The real divide is between the many and the few.”
He will say that while Labour will continue to work for its alternative Brexit plan which would protect jobs and living standards, it would never accept the Government’s “bad deal” or a “disastrous” no-deal.
“So if we can’t get a sensible deal, along the lines of our alternative plan, or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote,” he will say.
Meanwhile, Mrs May has rebuffed demands to set out a timetable for her departure from No 10 amid growing pressure from Tory MPs to make way for a new leader.
The chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, who met the Prime Minister privately on Tuesday, made clear she had not offered any further clarity about her future.
He said she would meet the committee’s 18-strong executive next week amid grass roots fury over the party’s worst local elections performance in 24 years.
Sir Graham suggested she could make a final effort to get her Brexit deal through Parliament before the European elections, when the party is expected to suffer even heavier losses.
He said he expected ministers to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – required to ratify her deal in law – in the “near future”.
However, even if agreement is reached with Labour on a compromise deal next week, the Government would have only a matter of days to attempt to secure a second reading before May 23, making any parliamentary vote on the Bill ahead of the European elections highly unlikely.
Downing Street has repeatedly said that Mrs May wants to be confident of any deal commanding a “sustainable majority” in Parliament before introducing the Bill.
With her effective deputy David Lidington suggesting he hoped a deal could be concluded by July – meaning the UK would leave on August 1 – there is speculation Mrs May could seek to hang on as leader until the annual party conference in the autumn.
However Nigel Evans, the executive secretary of the 1922 Committee, warned she would need to give MPs some greater certainty before then.
“August 1 is the next new date,” he told the BBC.
“It could be kicked down the road even further. That’s not what we want. We want some clarity from the Prime Minister.”