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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

UK's opposition will back 'sensible' Brexit deal

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn lays out his demands for supporting government over EU departure deal

 

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn made a conditional promise to back the UK government over Brexit. EPA  
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn made a conditional promise to back the UK government over Brexit. EPA  

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn held out an unexpected olive branch to beleaguered prime minister Theresa May on Wednesday when he said that his Labour party would support her if she delivered a Brexit that maintained a customs union and no hard border in Northern Ireland.

In a confident hour-long address to the party’s annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Corbyn “reached out” to Mrs May, saying: “Brexit is about the future of our country and our vital interests. It is not about leadership squabbles or parliamentary posturing.

“If you deliver a deal that includes a customs union and no hard border in Ireland, if you protect jobs, people’s rights at work and environmental and consumer standards – then we will support that sensible deal. A deal that would be backed by most of the business world and trade unions too.”

The offer would allow the prime minister to pass whatever deal she manages to negotiate with the European Union on the terms of the country’s exit. However, were she to commit to the terms of Mr Corbyn’s offer, it would lead to a split in the Tory party she leads.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston said that “Mr Corbyn has set May up to choose between a negotiated Brexit and splitting her party. Which sets up next week’s Tory conference as perhaps the most important of the modern era. Because it may determine both what kind of Brexit she can negotiate and whether the Tory party can survive any kind of negotiated Brexit.”

Elsewhere in his address, which was greeted with near-boyband levels of adulation by delegates in the hall, Mr Corbyn sought to draw a line under the anti-Semitism row that has dogged his party for months.

“The row over antisemitism has caused immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community and great dismay in the Labour Party. But I hope we can work together to draw a line under it,” he said.

“I say this to all in the Jewish community: this party, this movement, will always be implacable campaigners against antisemitism and racism in all its forms. We are your ally. We will work with Jewish communities to eradicate antisemitism, both from our party and wider society.”

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During his third speech to conference since his surprise election to the post of Labour leader in 2015, Mr Corbyn set out a programme of policies that his party would enact should they take power. He claimed that the Labour party, which has swung to the left, now represented “the new common sense of our time. And we are ready to deliver on it.”

He committed to embark on the “biggest home building programme in half a century” and took aim at the culture of outsourcing public services to private companies.

“Eight years of destructive austerity and obsessive outsourcing have left [local] councils teetering on the precipice too, and this government must be held to account for their social vandalism,” he said.

He also pledged to raise a tax on second home-owners: “Think of it as a solidarity fund for those with two homes to help those without any home at all.”