Jeremy Corbyn to meet with EU chief Brexit negotiator 24 hours after pledging to take charge in talks

Corbyn will also attend ceremony naming square in Brussels after murdered MP Jo Cox

Jon Stone
Brussels
Wednesday 26 September 2018 18:56 BST
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Jeremy Corbyn tells Theresa May he might back her Brexit deal if it is 'sensible'

Jeremy Corbyn will travel to Brussels on Thursday to meet with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, 24 hours after pledging to take charge of negotiations if Labour is elected to power.

The Labour leader is also expected to attend the naming ceremony of a square in Brussels in memory of Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was murdered by a right-wing extremist during the EU referendum campaign.

In his party conference speech in Liverpool on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn said he would support Theresa May’s Brexit deal in Parliament if it was “sensible” and included a customs union and avoided a hard border.

But he warned that the party would vote against the Chequers plan “or whatever is left of it” and oppose a no-deal Brexit, which he argued would be a “national disaster”.

It is expected that Labour would seek an extension of Brexit talks so that it could negotiate its own plan were the Government to collapse before the UK leaves.

He told Ms May: “If you can’t negotiate that deal then you need to make way for a party that can” – and said talks would be led by Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary.

Mr Corbyn’s meeting with Michel Barnier – not his first – will hopefully provide some answers about how amenable the EU is to the party’s own increasingly fleshed-out Brexit plan.

If you can’t negotiate that deal then you need to make way for a party that can

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader

The party’s stipulation of a customs union sits alongside a plan for a renegotiated single market, with opt-outs in areas like state aid rules. That latter proposal appears to cross EU red lines of not splitting up the bloc’s responsibilities – though it is perhaps closer to what the EU says is necessary for frictionless trade than Ms May’s own proposals.

The Prime Minister’s trade plan was rejected by EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg last week, but she reacted angrily – claiming that they had not given adequate reasons for its rejection and that the onus was on them to come up with a new solution.

In fact, the EU has spelled out its reasoning in full – arguing that it cannot delegate customs checks to a non-member state, that it thinks Ms May’s proposals for splitting up the single market would give Britain an unfair competitive advantage, and that it wants to preserve the integrity of the bloc’s “four freedoms”.

The Belgian capital is renaming one of its city squares after Ms Cox. The development is located behind the Ancienne Belgique music venue, which the Labour MP frequented during her own time in Brussels, with the dedication set for Thursday.

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