Thursday 17 January 2019

‘The only way out of chaos is general election’ – Corbyn

Japanese PM urges MPs to back May’s deal, saying ‘the whole world’ wants UK to avoid crashing out

Calling for election: Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: REUTERS2
Calling for election: Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: REUTERS

Cormac McQuinn and Ryan Nugent

There was fresh turmoil in British politics as the car-crash debate on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal continued for a second day in Westminster.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed at an event with party supporters that the only way out of the “political chaos” is a general election.

In the House of Commons senior Conservative minister Michael Gove branded Labour’s position on Brexit as “b******s”.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – in London for talks with Mrs May – urged MPs to back her deal. He said “the whole world” wants Britain to avoid crashing out of the EU.

Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU – including the controversial backstop to avoid a hard Border in Ireland – is set to be voted on by MPs on Tuesday.

It faces massive opposition from Labour, some in the Conservative Party and the DUP, who Mrs May relies upon to stay in power.

Under fire: Theresa May with British army officer major general Benjamin John Bathurst as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe receives a military guard of honour in London. Photo: Getty Images22
Under fire: Theresa May with British army officer major general Benjamin John Bathurst as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe receives a military guard of honour in London. Photo: Getty Images

She once again called on MPs to support her plan. In somewhat garbled remarks she said: “The only way to avoid no deal is to have a deal and to agree a deal, and the deal that is on the table, the deal that is the deal that the EU has made clear, is the only deal.” In Northern Ireland, Tánaiste Simon Coveney rejected suggestions that defeat of Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement is inevitable, insisting there is no majority in Westminster for a no-deal scenario.

Elsewhere, Communications Minister Richard Bruton said a no-deal Brexit would be of “immense concern” and warned of potential disruption to the single electricity market in Ireland. He also said Ireland depends on the UK for supplies of oil and gas but insisted the Government has been “doing a lot of contingency planning” on these issues.

He said the Government respects the British people’s decision to leave the EU. But he added: “It is upsetting to see the difficulty in Westminster in defining that clear way forward so that we can know what direction this is going to go. Hopefully we can reach a decision because a crash out by the UK would do immense damage, not just to us, but to British citizens [and] businesses”.

Mr Corbyn, speaking at an event in Yorkshire, said his party doesn’t have confidence in the British government and added: “The political chaos cannot go on. The only way out of it would be a general election.”

He confirmed his party will call for a vote of no confidence if the Brexit deal is voted down in a bid to force an election.

He said Labour would campaign on a platform of opening fresh Brexit negotiations with Brussels on a potential deal involving a customs union and single market relationship.

Mr Corbyn suggested there would need to be extra time for these talks and so seeking an extension on the UK’s March 29 departure date from the EU would be a possibility.

He said Labour doesn’t have enough MPs to win a confidence vote on its own and MPs across the house should vote with them to “break the deadlock”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, environment secretary Michael Gove claimed that Labour’s Brexit stance is “b******s”. He referred to reports alleging that Labour shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner had made similar remarks. Mr Gove said: “There are some distinguished citizens in this country who have put on their cars a poster or sticker saying ‘b******s to Brexit’ – but we now know from Labour’s own front bench that their official Brexit position is b******s.”

Mr Gove said compromise was inevitable with any Brexit deal and insisted Mrs May’s agreement “honours the referendum result” and protects British interests.

The prominent Brexit supporter also defended the backstop for Northern Ireland.

During the debate the night before, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington – Mrs May’s de facto deputy – warned of security tensions in Northern Ireland and the risk that it could leave the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit. He said “moderate” Nationalists are becoming more “hard-line” and questioning Northern Ireland’s constitutional status in the UK.

“Their consent… to the Union seems to me to be hugely important to preserving the Union, which I passionately want to do.”

Mr Lidington also said: “We should not underestimate the importance of the guarantee of no hard Border on the island of Ireland and no customs border in the Irish Sea.”

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