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Jeremy Corbyn to meet EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier for discussions in case of snap election

The Labour leader said 'things could change quite quickly...we are ready for it'

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 06 July 2017 15:33 BST
Theresa May's minority Government is reaching out to some unlikely bedfellows
Theresa May's minority Government is reaching out to some unlikely bedfellows (Getty)

Jeremy Corbyn will sit down with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier for discussions ahead of any snap UK election that could see the Labour leader installed at Downing Street.

Mr Corbyn said the meeting would allow him to outline Labour’s approach to Brexit for the EU’s frontline negotiator, with tariff free access to the single market the party’s main objective.

The Labour leader also said he would set out Labour’s support for the UK unilaterally guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights and maintaining similar consumer, labour and environmental regulation.

Mr Barnier gave a speech on Wednesday morning underlining his position, that the EU could not allow “frictionless” trade with the single market, while the UK did not accept the ‘four freedoms’, including freedom of movement.

Speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “The single market is a concept that requires membership of the EU and so what we are looking for is tariff free access to the single market.

“Our shadow team led by Keir Starmer has had many discussions with the EU officials, members of the European Parliament and we have a good relationship with socialist parties all across Europe who want to work with us in the future.

“I’ll be in Brussels next week to have an extended meeting with Michel Barnier to outline what our issues are.”

Mr Corbyn said the meeting is necessary because the Government could fall apart at any moment, given it is hinged together by what he called a “very strange deal with the Democratic Unionist Party”.

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He added: “I think things could change quite quickly, we could at some point have another election, I don’t know when. But we are ready for it.”

The Labour leader said his party’s Brexit priorities included tariff free access to the European market and preventing the UK becoming an offshore tax haven, as suggested by some in Theresa May’s Government.

He added: “[Our third priority is] that European nationals are guaranteed unilaterally, rights to remain in Britain with full citizenship and rights of family re-union, I think that’s crucial, and that we maintain university connections across Europe and that we maintain a broadly similar level of regulation of consumer products, environmental and workers’ rights.

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“It would be a partnership with Europe in the future but not membership of the European Union.”

He said the outline he would give to Mr Barnier would be one of a “jobs-first Brexit” that protected employment opportunities.

Mr Corbyn pointed to companies who have supply chains on both sides of the English Channel, including UK-based ones like Nissan, Airbus and BMW.

He added: “You can’t break that up without a massive dislocation and job loss, not just in the companies themselves but in the local economy.

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“So for example BMW decided not to invest further in its plant at Cowley, what’s the effect on the local economy around that part of Oxford? Massive. Airbus in North Wales massive in that area, very important employer in that area.

“They don’t actually make a plane, they make important parts of it like the wings and take it over to Toulouse for assembly.”

Speaking earlier in the day Mr Barnier set out the EU’s three ‘red lines’ – that free movement of persons, goods, services and capital are indivisible, that there can be no “sector by sector” participation in the single market, as desired by Ms May’s Government, and that the EU must have autonomy to set its own rules.

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