Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to form a radical alliance with hard-left anti-austerity parties in the European Parliament to roll back parts of David Cameron’s Brussels renegotiation after the referendum.
The Labour leader, a life-long eurosceptic, has vowed to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU but is fiercely critical of Brussels’s rules enforcing “liberalisation” – a key component of Mr Cameron’s reform package.
Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, Mr Corbyn called for the social democrat grouping in the European Parliament to embrace radical parties such as Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos to push for “far-reaching progressive reform” across the EU after the 23 June vote.
Mr Corbyn said he wanted an end to Brussels-backed austerity and rules enforcing market competition – including elements of the giant EU-US free trade deal which are supported by the Government.
He also called for the EU to introduce stronger employment rights to stop the exploitation of migrant workers undercutting wage rates.
Labour critics have accused Mr Corbyn of undermining the campaign to keep Britain in the EU by continuing to criticise Brussels’s rules. But a source close to Mr Corbyn rejected the idea that he should shy away from criticising the EU for fear it could play into the hands of eurosceptics.
“You are not going to win the referendum by pretending the EU is perfect,” the source said. “This is one of the crucial battlegrounds of our time. Living standards across Europe have fallen or stagnated since the crash of 2008, and the old economic model isn’t working.”
Mr Corbyn has been won round to remaining within the EU after attending a series of socialist party meetings in Brussels alongside European leaders including François Hollande and Matteo Renzi.
He even raised a constituency matter with the Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa.
However, Mr Corbyn has urged the Party of European Socialists grouping, where Labour sits, to forge deeper alliances with parties to the left of them, including the United Left group.
This group includes the German party Die Linke – which was descended from the communist party which governed East Germany and Ireland’s Sinn Fein.
The Labour source said there was a “growing opportunity to work in a common way to address the negatives of the European Union from a progressive point of view”.
Mr Corbyn said he was supporting the Labour In campaign because the EU had brought “investment, jobs and protection for workers and consumers in Britain”. He said it was “a vital framework for trade and cooperation in the 21st century”.
But he added: “We also need to see real reform if the EU is to work for working people. That includes more democracy, stronger workers’ rights, an end to austerity and a halt to enforced deregulation and privatisation of public services.
“To make those changes we need to be at the heart of an alliance for change with left-of-centre and progressive parties and movements across Europe.
“Labour is making allies for real reform in Europe with the Party of European Socialists and other European parties across the broad left, while the Tories are isolating themselves.
“But we can only achieve change by staying in and making common cause with others across Europe.”