Jeremy Corbyn has refused to rule out backing a second referendum on the final Brexit deal achieved after withdrawal negotiations with the European Union. Following his first keynote speech of the general election campaign, the Labour leader was asked whether he was considering or would rule out following the Liberal Democrats in backing a second vote on the exit deal.
But Mr Corbyn appeared to dodge the question, replying: “The European Union negotiations are going on and we set out our (red) lines on the negotiation. “Primarily, it’s about getting and retaining tariff-free access to the European market.
“We haven’t threatened to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven on the shores of Europe, undermining the European economy.”
Instead, Labour wants a “good process by which we continue to trade with Europe”. He added: “Walking away and trading under World Trade Organisation conditions will mean the manufacturing industry in this country would be severely damaged.”
It comes after shadow chancellor John McDonnell on Wednesday said the Government should “put the deal to Parliament and possibly to the country overall”. Conservative Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin seized on the suggestions that Labour may back a second vote, insisting it would disrupt the negotiations.
“This is yet more evidence of chaos from Jeremy Corbyn and Labour,” he said. “It shows they can’t provide the strong and stable leadership Britain needs at this serious moment in our history. “It’s clear Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP are now lining up to disrupt our Brexit negotiations in a coalition of chaos.
“This can only mean more uncertainty for Britain, more risk and a future that is less secure.
“On June 8 every vote is going to count. Every Conservative vote will strengthen the UK’s negotiating position in Europe – every vote for another party will weaken it.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Corbyn insisted Labour’s position, backing a “meaningful vote” in Parliament, had not changed. “Our position hasn’t changed and we have laid out our six tests for any Brexit deal,” she said.
“We have consistently demanded a meaningful vote in Parliament and, as the government, will bring the deal we negotiate to Parliament before it is finalised to ensure democratic accountability.
“We will be laying out all our policies, including on Brexit, in further detail in the coming weeks and next month in our manifesto.”