Brexit can happen without ‘trashing’ UK economy or NHS, Jeremy Corbyn to claim

Labour leader to stamp his authority on his Remain-backing colleagues – by insisting a pain-free, softer exit deal can be achieved

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 04 November 2019 23:32
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Countdown to Brexit: How many days left until Britain leaves the EU?

Brexit can be carried out without “trashing” the economy or the NHS, Jeremy Corbyn will claim, as he stamps his authority on his Remain-backing colleagues.

The Labour leader will underline his determination to stay neutral in the EU debate, while negotiating “a sensible deal” to be put to a second referendum if the party wins the general election.

Labour’s most senior figures – John McDonnell, Tom Watson, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott and Sir Keir Starmer – have all pledged to back Remain in that second poll, citing the huge damage from leaving the bloc.

But Mr Corbyn, speaking on the campaign trail in Essex on Tuesday, will risk angering the Labour faithful by insisting a pain-free, softer Brexit can be delivered with him in No 10.

It comes as Boris Johnson put pressure on the Labour leader by urging him to "come clean" on his Brexit plans, demanding to know the party's stance on freedom of movement and revoking article 50.

Mr Corbyn will say: “If you want to leave the EU without trashing our economy or selling out our NHS you’ll be able to vote for it.

“If you want to remain in the EU, you’ll be able to vote for that. Either way, only a Labour government will put the final decision in your hands.

“And we will immediately carry out your decision so Britain can get beyond Brexit.”

Labour has insisted it can “get Brexit sorted within six months”, arguing a deal based on a customs union and “a close single market relationship” can be struck within three months.

The stance has been attacked from both poles of the EU debate, as “dither and delay” by Boris Johnson and as a pro-Brexit policy by the Liberal Democrats.

But Mr Corbyn is now making clear his colleagues must fall into line behind the party conference decision not to endorse Remain before Labour’s renegotiation is known.

In an interview, the Labour leader made clear he expected the “clause V” meeting to decide his election manifesto, expected to take place next weekend, would rubber-stamp it.

“I don’t see why the clause V meeting would want to change anything, because my whole strategy has been to try and keep the party, the movement and the country together,” he told The Guardian.

Although Labour plans to campaign primarily on ending austerity, Mr Corbyn believes he has struck a rich chord by linking Brexit to the claims of a damaging trade deal with Donald Trump.

In Harlow, he will repeat his claim that the NHS is in danger, after the revelation that senior civil servants discussed medicine pricing in secret talks with US officials.

The prime minister has insisted the NHS will be “off the table” in any trade talks, but Mr Corbyn will say: “A vote for Johnson’s Conservatives is a vote to betray our NHS in a sell-out to Trump.

“Johnson’s Trump-deal Brexit puts a price tag on our NHS. So we’ll say it again and again until the message gets through to the White House: our NHS is not for sale.”

In a letter to Mr Corbyn, the prime minister said: "For months you have refused to say what sort of 'deal' you want with the EU. Now the time has come for you to come clean and explain what your plan really is so when the public vote 12 December, they know what they are voting for."

Mr Johnson pressed the Labour leader on whether he would campaign for a Labour Brexit deal in another referendum - and whether he would confirm he would oppose revoking article 50 in the event of a hung parliament.

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