I'll call a general election: Corbyn brands no-deal Brexit a 'national disaster'

Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed Labour would vote down Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit agreement and push for an early general election if the PM fails to reach a deal.

In his keynote conference speech in Liverpool, he told delegates: “As it stands, Labour will vote against the Chequers plan, or whatever is left of it, and oppose leaving the EU with no deal.

“It is inconceivable that we should crash out of Europe with no deal – that would be a national disaster.

“That is why if Parliament votes down a Tory deal or the government fails to reach any deal at all we would press for a general election.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts after delivering his speech at the party’s conference in Liverpool.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts after delivering his speech at the party’s conference in Liverpool.

The opposition leader’s address also promised a ‘green jobs revolution’ and an end to ‘greed-is-good capitalism’ as he laid out a new vision for the economy.

Delegates watch Jeremy Corbyn deliver his keynote speech (Reuters)
Delegates watch Jeremy Corbyn deliver his keynote speech (Reuters)

Mr Corbyn said that investment in the environment would lead to a 60% reduction in emissions and will create 400,000 new skilled jobs in the UK, as part of Labour’s ‘radical plan we need to rebuild and transform Britain.’

In a speech punctuated by prolonged applause and chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ from delegates, the Labour leader:

  • Confirmed that Labour would vote down the Chequers plan and oppose leaving the EU without a deal

  • Pledged to push for a general election if parliament votes down Brexit deal or Theresa May fails to reach one

  • Promised that Labour would embark on ‘the biggest home building programme in half a century’ and reiterated plan for a levy on second homes

  • Criticised Theresa May personally for her ‘nasty and cynical’ hostile environment policy towards immigrants

  • Criticised the British press for ‘spreading lies and half-truths’

  • Addressed the Jewish community, saying ‘we are your allies’ while denouncing ‘Tory hypocrites’

  • Tackled crime reduction by promising ‘10,000 more police officers back on our streets’ and an investment in young people so ‘there will be no more left-behind areas’

  • Announced that 30 hours a week of free children would be available to all 2, 3 and 4 year-olds under Labour

  • Doubled down on shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s economic ideas, including giving workers of all large businesses the right to elect a third of the board and handing employees a stake in firms

  • Committed to the triple-lock on pensions, winter fuel allowance and free bus pass for the elderly

  • Denounced Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and Iran nuclear deal, accusing him of ‘turning his back on international cooperation and even international law’

  • Warned that we are ‘entering a new fast-changing and more dangerous world’, as shown by the attacks in Salisbury, which he blamed on Russia

  • Called for unity within Labour and urged an end to abuse online and in person

  • Pledged an end to ‘reckless wars on intervention like Iraq or Syria’

  • Demanded an end to ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

  • Said Labour would recognise a Palestinian state as soon as they took office, supporting a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict

The speech was light on new policy pledges, instead referring to announcements made by shadow cabinet ministers earlier in the conference.

The address closes a four-day Labour Party conference where Brexit has dominated the agenda.

Shadow Brexit security Sir Keir Starmer was greeted with rapturous applause when he told the conference that Labour was not ruling out a second Brexit referendum with remaining in the EU on the ballot paper.

Keir Starmer delivers his speech on the third day of Labour’s conference in Liverpool.
Keir Starmer delivers his speech on the third day of Labour’s conference in Liverpool.

He said: “It is right that Parliament has the first say but if we need to break the impasse, our options must include campaigning for a public vote and nobody is ruling out Remain as an option.”

Sir Keir said that Labour’s preferred option if Theresa May fails to secure a satisfactory deal would be an early general election but failing that ‘we must have other options’.

The Prime Minister rejected the idea of another election last night, insisting it would not be in the national interest.

Speaking to reporters as she flew to New York for a meeting of the UN General Assembly, Mrs May said: “What I’m doing is working to deliver a good deal with Europe in the national interest.”

Other Labour ministers have rowed back from Sir Keir’s apparent support for a second Brexit vote.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon insisted Labour’s policy remained that “we accept and respect the outcome of the referendum”.

He told LBC radio: “The Labour Party isn’t calling for a second referendum.

“Labour has our own vision of Brexit, respecting, accepting the outcome of the referendum.”