Second Brexit referendum would not be disastrous, says Jeremy Corbyn

By Richard Wheeler, Press Association Political Staff
The Opposition leader reiterated a second referendum should be an option on the table to respond to what emerges from Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted a second Brexit referendum would not be “disastrous”, but suggested Parliament must offer something to enable such a vote.

The Labour leader also said freedom of movement would be part of any negotiations with the EU led by his party in a bid to help workers.

He added Labour does not currently support legislation to implement the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement as he has heard nothing which suggests it will be “fundamentally any different” to what was previously put forward.

Mr Corbyn was repeatedly pressed for clarity over Labour’s stance on Brexit ahead of Thursday’s European elections, with a series of conflicting views from shadow cabinet ministers presented to him.

Asked if the Labour election slogan was “Vote Labour, get Brexit”, Mr Corbyn told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think what would be a fair assessment would be to say Vote Labour, challenge austerity and guarantee living standards for the future, not a no-deal exit from the European Union which is all that’s being offered by the Tory right and, in a sense, by the Tory party.”

The Opposition leader reiterated a second referendum should be an option on the table to respond to what emerges from Parliament, although added MPs have yet to reach agreement.

Mr Corbyn was pushed on what he meant when saying “option”, to which he replied: “We would want a vote in order to decide what the future would be, so yes.”

Asked if a second referendum would be disastrous, Mr Corbyn replied: “No, I don’t think anything like that is disastrous but I think it has to be an opportunity for public debate and public discussion, but it has to be about something and that’s why I have made the point clear about a customs union and trade and rights protection.”

Mr Corbyn said he is “not staunchly against freedom of movement”, before adding: “Our manifesto said the European system would not apply if you’re not in the European Union – but I quite clearly recognise there has to be a lot of movement of workers.

“Ask any company in manufacturing or any other sector how much they need and rely on workers from Europe and indeed the other way around.”

Told there are countries outside the EU which have chosen to retain free movement, Mr Corbyn said: “That would be part of our negotiations with the EU.”

He added: “Part of our negotiations, the extent to which workers would transfer from one country to the other and what the needs for it would be.”

Asked if Labour would keep free movement as a non-member of the EU, Mr Corbyn replied: “It would be open for negotiation the level of movement of people between Europe and this country if we’re a non-member of the EU.”

Talks between the Conservatives and Labour to try and break the Brexit deadlock collapsed last week, with Mr Corbyn reiterating they have “concluded” and the Government “hasn’t changed its red lines”.

On the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which is expected to be debated in the Commons in the week beginning June 3, Mr Corbyn said: “We haven’t seen whatever the new Bill is going to be yet but nothing I’ve heard leads me to believe it’s fundamentally any different to the previous Bill that’s been put forward, so as of now we’re not supporting it.”

Mr Corbyn earlier also played down the prospect of future indicative votes on Brexit proposals, noting: “I think it’s unlikely that it will actually take us much further forward. I think the Government has to come up with legislation through negotiation with the EU.”