Left-wingers to tour Britain in campaign to convince Jeremy Corbyn to block Brexit

Campaigners call on Labour to stop Tory 'class war'

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Friday 01 June 2018 08:35
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What is still needed to complete a deal with the EU?

Anti-Brexit left-wingers will tour Britain this summer in a campaign to build opposition to leaving the EU – calling on Jeremy Corbyn to back remain and negotiate a “new settlement” with Brussels.

Figures like Green leader Caroline Lucas, TSSA union chief Manuel Cortes, and journalist Zoe Williams will embark on the speaking tour, denouncing Brexit as a “right-wing brainchild” with a narrow mandate in a bid to shift opinions.

The campaign’s aims clash with the position of the Labour leadership – which is to respect the EU referendum result but to oppose the more extreme aspects of Theresa May’s plan for leaving the bloc.

The tour represents a bid to put pressure on Mr Corbyn to shift his position on leaving the bloc, highlight support for Remain in his voter base.

Mr Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said there was “no one better placed” than the Labour leader to call for a new economic settlement with Europe that included staying in the EU.

“There is nothing about Brexit that will make life better for the working class. It was a right wing brainchild that won – and only narrowly – on a deceitful programme of dog whistle racism and the big lie that the NHS would get £350 million a week,” the trade unionist said.

“The left should unite now and come together to stop this Tory act of war against our class. Our job is always to defend our people against the boss class. Supporting Tory/UKIP Brexit is unacceptable class collaboration. Full stop.”

The left should unite now and come together to stop this Tory act of war against our class

Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary

He added: “The Corbyn promise of new economic settlement at home is now our priority. Frankly, there is no one better placed than Jeremy to call for peace and reconciliation with Europe. And only Labour can put an end to this Tory war against workers rights, livelihoods and our freedom to live and work where we choose in Europe.

“Pulling out of Brexit, not Europe, is now the bold offer we need to make if we are to win an election and begin to properly rebuild prosperity at home.”

Green MP Ms Lucas added: “It’s vital that there’s an independent left voice against Brexit and this campaign will show the breadth of the anti-Brexit movement.

“We’re going to make the radical case for staying and leading in the EU – and I look forward to meeting people up and down the country as part of this fight.”

The group’s website says: “If and when Jeremy Corbyn walks into 10 Downing Street, Brexit will hurt us too. It will be so much harder to deliver a radical, transformative programme when the economy is in crisis and so many critical rights and freedoms have already been lost.”

Other speakers on the tour include Labour MEPs Seb Dance and Julie Ward, journalist Gary Younge, and economist Ann Petifor. It is expected to hold events in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Brighton, Bristol, Plymouth, Newcastle, York and Cardiff – with more venues set to be announced.

Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for Remain but says he accepts the referendum result

Liberal and centrist groups have so far been most high profile in their opposition to Brexit, with the Liberal Democrats having promised another referendum and professionalised campaign groups like Open Britain and Best for Britain doing the bulk of high-profile media work.

Though Labour is likely to vote against the Government’s Brexit deal unless it meets five difficult economic tests, it has been deliberately careful not to be seen as blocking the referendum result. The party fears that it could lose voters en masse to the Tories in marginal seats that voted Brexit.

Though the overwhelming number of Labour members back Remain, and most Labour voters too, two thirds of the party’s constituencies also voted Leave – putting MPs on edge and encouraging the party to walk a difficult tightrope.

The party is expected to vote against the Government’s Brexit deal, which currently does not appear to be on course to meet its ‘five tests’. Labour says it would negotiate a customs union with the EU and also try and retain aspects of the single market – though it has ruled out joining the European Economic Area as it is currently arranged.

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