EU referendum: Jeremy Corbyn backs Remain and calls Leave leaders ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’

Party leader makes 11th-hour appeal to Labour voters to back staying in the EU

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Tuesday 14 June 2016 23:07 BST
The Labour leader pleaded for his party's supporters and trade unionists to vote Remain
The Labour leader pleaded for his party's supporters and trade unionists to vote Remain (PA)

Jeremy Corbyn has made an 11th-hour appeal to Labour voters to back a Remain vote, placing the NHS front and centre of the party’s EU message, and branding Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who want to destroy the health service. Appearing alongside the entire shadow cabinet and the leaders of the country’s biggest trade unions, Mr Corbyn implored Labour voters to “think very carefully” about their vote, and to back Remain.

With another poll giving Leave the lead, and barely a week to go before polling day, the Remain camp’s hopes are now pinned to the so-called Labour fight-back, which has seen the opposition’s leading figures take centre stage in the referendum debate.

On Wednesday, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson will argue that staying in the European Union could create more than a million new jobs for Britain by 2030. The figure is based on an analysis of the four per cent boost the Treasury estimates membership of the Single Market grants to UK GDP.

Mr Watson has also indicated that Labour may campaign for tighter controls on freedom of movement within the EU, telling the BBC that voters had given “a pretty clear signal” that immigration was a major concern.

Mr Corbyn, who has faced criticism over his commitment to the pro-EU cause after admitting he was “seven or seven and a half” out of 10 in favour of Remain, sought to rally Labour voters around the NHS in a speech in London.

Attempting to wrest the mantle of NHS champions from the Leave campaign, which has pledged to spend £100m more a week on the health service, Mr Corbyn claimed that Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage were faking their enthusiasm for a publicly funded service. “There are people leading that campaign who have argued against the NHS and free healthcare on demand as a principle,” he said. “These same people now have the audacity to portray themselves as the saviours of the NHS. Many don’t even want there to be an NHS.

“Nigel Farage called for an insurance-based system to replace the NHS. Michael Gove is co-author of a book that claims the NHS is ‘no longer relevant in the 21st century’. And Boris Johnson has said: ‘If people have to pay for NHS services, they will value them more.' Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson really are wolves in sheep’s clothing, using this concern for the NHS to mask their real agenda,” he added.

He also hailed the role of the 52,000 EU migrants working in the NHS. “What’s the answer Johnson, Farage and Gove have got for that? The NHS couldn’t afford to lose 52,000 dedicated professionals and still offer the services we need. They should think about these things before they shoot their mouths off in the way they do,” he said.

His intervention, aimed at winning back support for Remain among Labour voters who consistently list the NHS as one of their chief political priorities, came as a new poll by TNS again showed Leave in the lead, this time by 47 to 40.

The late Leave surge is causing deep concern in Downing Street and has led to the worst volatility in the value of sterling since the financial crisis of 2008.

The EU referendum debate has so far been characterised by bias, distortion and exaggeration. So until 23 June we we’re running a series of question and answer features that explain the most important issues in a detailed, dispassionate way to help inform your decision.

What is Brexit and why are we having an EU referendum?

Will we gain or lose rights by leaving the European Union?

What will happen to immigration if there's Brexit?

Will Brexit make the UK more or less safe?

Will the UK benefit from being released from EU laws?

Will leaving the EU save taxpayers money and mean more money for the NHS?

What will Brexit do to UK trade?

How Brexit will affect British tourism

What will Brexit mean for British tourists booking holidays in the EU?

Will Brexit help or damage the environment?

Will Brexit mean that Europeans have to leave the UK?

What will Brexit mean for British expats?

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