Corbyn on Brexit: We must recognise Leave vote
Labour leader says: It’s not the result we wanted but we’ve got to work with it or lose credibility
24 March, 2017 — By Koos Couvée
LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he is not concerned that Labour’s stance over Brexit will forever mark his legacy as party leader.
Speaking to the Tribune this week, Mr Corbyn defended his party’s position in the face of criticism from Remainers over his decision to whip MPs to back the government in the Article 50 vote.
MPs voted last Monday to trigger Article 50, which formally starts the two-year process of exiting the European Union.
Labour was defeated on two amendments – one which sought to secure the rights of EU nationals and another demanding a “meaningful” say in Parliament on the final Brexit deal – but still overwhelmingly backed the Bill.
This has led to accusations it is giving the Tory government carte blanche for an “extreme Brexit”.
But Mr Corbyn said: “We’re not going to support the idea of this country becoming a tax haven, any more than we’re going to let up on the key issue of tariff-free markets.
“I want to be part of the European Court of Human Rights, part of the trading relationship with Europe, and I want to maintain the environmental and employment standards we’ve achieved through [EU] membership.
“The demands we made and will continue to make were that EU nationals should be allowed to remain here and, secondly, that Parliament should have the final say on the negotiations.”
The Islington North MP’s comments came a week after a well-attended pro-Remain rally at Islington town hall, where anti-Brexit campaigner AC Grayling described Mr Corbyn and his Islington South counterpart Emily Thornberry as “Leaver MPs”.
But Mr Corbyn hit back, saying: “There are some people who are offering a counsel of despair. It’s not the result we wanted but we’ve got to work with it, otherwise we would have no credibility with anyone who voted Leave.
“I recognise the concern and I recognise that the overwhelming majority in this area [Islington] wanted to remain in the EU and it’s a position that I hold and indeed campaigned for. [But] I think the basic principle must be that we represent the result of the referendum.”
Asked if he was worried his stance on Article 50 would forever mark his legacy as leader in the event of a “hard Brexit”, Mr Corbyn replied: “Not at all. If Theresa May decided to [leave the EU under] WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules, then she would be in a massive problem with just about every manufacturing enterprise in Britain and many service industries as well. Clearly, they have to trade with Europe.
“Every university has relationships with Europe and those would be damaged unless there’s a rapid agreement. I believe that has to be our number one priority.”
He added: “Listen, I understand people’s concern, I understand people’s frustration but I do think that, since a referendum was held, the result must be recognised.”
More than 75 per cent of voters in Islington backed Remain in last year’s referendum.
The borough ranked as the seventh most enthusiastically pro-EU constituency in the country.
Ex-mayor’s protest at Brexit stance
Phil Kelly: ‘Brexit will wreck our economy’
FORMER Islington mayor Phil Kelly has said he challenged Jeremy Corbyn over Labour’s Brexit stance at a meeting of Islington North members last week.
Mr Kelly, former Labour councillor for Finsbury Park and an ex-editor of left-wing magazine Tribune, said he protested as Mr Corbyn spoke at last week’s local party meeting at St George’s Church, in Tufnell Park, which was attended by around 60 members.
Mr Kelly, a staunch Remainer, said: “When he was going on about [European] families who are worried about not having a future [in Britain], I said: ‘It’s your fault.’
“I think he should have whipped MPs to vote against Article 50. I think we should have the courage to say [Brexit] will wreck our economy and plunge us back into the 1950s. Farage and Le Pen want it – we should be on the other side.”
Mr Corbyn said he did not hear Mr Kelly’s protestations.
Mr Kelly admitted he was a lone voice of opposition at the meeting. “I’m not going to exaggerate the extent of the opposition,” he added. “But in the Labour Party there is significant support to remain in the EU.”
Mr Kelly did not expect voters in Islington North – where Mr Corbyn has a majority of 21,194 – to abandon Labour en masse, but fewer volunteers would be willing to canvass for the party because of its Article 50 stance, he said.