Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited Hastings this morning to give a speech outlining his party’s position on a no-deal Brexit and a potential second referendum.
In front of a crowd at St Mary in the Castle, the leader of the opposition repeatedly called on Theresa May to take a no-deal Brexit ‘off the table’.
Opening his speech, Mr Corbyn said it was ‘great to be in Hastings’ – a constituency where Labour came within 346 votes of taking Amber Rudd’s seat at the last election in 2017.
Mr Corbyn, who yesterday lost a no-confidence motion against Theresa May, accused the Prime Minister of ‘blackmailing’ MPs with a no-deal scenario so they would back her second attempt at passing a withdrawal agreement through parliament.
Mrs May’s first withdrawal agreement, agreed with the European Union, was voted down by 230 votes on Tuesday (January 15).
Mr Corbyn said today (Thursday): “The central policy of the government has been decisively rejected. The defeat that she suffered in the vote on the European Union agreement that she reached was the biggest ever defeat any government has ever faced in British political history.
“It’s clear that her EU deal is now finished.
“There can be no question of tweaks or sweeteners from Brussels to bring it back to life. The deal that she brought back – all 500 plus pages of it – is quite clearly a dead deal.”
He said Mrs May has to ‘ditch the red lines and get serious’ about proposals for the future to stop the country ‘hurtling towards a cliff edge’.
Mr Corbyn described Mrs May’s offer to talk to other party leaders as a ‘stunt’ but said he was ‘quite happy to talk to her’ if the ‘threat of a no-deal outcome’ is ruled out.
He added: “Take no-deal off the table now, please Prime Minister.
Mr Corbyn said with no-deal on the table the Prime Minister would enter into ‘phony talks just to run down the clock’ until Brexit.
He accused the government of being ‘consumed’ by Brexit while ignoring vital issues including ‘cash-starved schools, the NHS at breaking point, rising bills and unaffordable houses’.
He added: “They have all gone to the back of the queue. Two and a half years of Brexit rambling and failure have left parliament in deadlock. Nothing can be decided, nothing can get done.
“We believe that the best outcome for this crisis – for the country as a whole – remains calling a general election to break the deadlock.”
With regard to Brexit, Mr Corbyn said all options ‘are on the table’.
He said labour will put down its own amendments to the bills next week, setting out an alternative plan which includes a permanent customs union with the European Union, a single market relationship and a guarantee to keep pace with EU rights at work, environment protections and consumer standards.
He added: “If support for Labour’s alternative is blocked for party advantage and the country is facing the potential disaster of no-deal, our duty will then be to look at other options. We will set out on a confidence motion, including that of a public vote.”