The government has “wrapped Brexit up in fake patriotic posturing” and must not be allowed to turn Britain into “bargain basement tax haven”, Jeremy Corbyn said today (February 24).
Speaking at the Road to Brexit conference, the Labour leader called for a “People’s Brexit” that includes a “loud and clear” trade union voice, protection for employment rights and tariff free access to the single market.
He said: “Theresa May has dangled the threat of turning Britain into a bargain basement tax haven if the European Union doesn’t play ball.
“But slashing taxes still further for big business, and cutting essential regulation in jobs, the environment, consumer protection, as a magnet for north American corporate giants – that’s not just a threat and a danger to the European Union, it’s a threat and a danger to the British people, effectively turning all of us into a Tory bargaining chip.”
He continued, “Far from taking back control, that would mean an assault on our public services, our standard of living and our quality of life.”
“That is not what the majority of our people want. But it is the clearly stated agenda of senior members of the Conservative government, who made clear both during and since the referendum campaign that is exactly the fantasy free market never-never land they want out of Brexit.”
Corbyn said there was “precious little trust when it comes to employment rights” pledges from the Tories, who have “continually strained every nerve to undermine trade unions and workers’ rights in this country.”
He added, “A Labour government would protect and advance rights at work starting by repealing the regressive Trade Union Act. Trade union voices must be loud and clear and must be listened to in the Brexit debate.”
Corbyn warned the Tories’ divisive plan to disregard everything but their own aims during upcoming EU negotiations needs to be halted to prevent serious harm to the UK.
He said, “If we let the government make the wrong choices for Britain we could pay the price for decades to come. So we must do all we can to protect this country from the dangers of a brutal Tory Brexit.
“Our future should not be decided by a small cabal of Tory free market zealots using Brexit as an excuse to force their agenda of deep austerity, privatisation and de-regulation.”
Corbyn attacked the Prime Minister’s continuing refusal to guarantee the rights of EU nationals residing in Britain and pledged that Labour will stand up for migrant communities.
He said, “It is a scandal that our government is trying to use citizens of the EU, who have made their homes in Britain, as a bargaining chip. I understand the fear in many communities since the Brexit vote. Many EU nationals feel isolated and believe they are no longer welcome in the country they have come to call home.”
“I want to send a clear message to all those people who have already given so much to British society: you are welcome here, Labour will fight for your rights, we will stand up to intolerance, and we will do everything we can to represent and defend you.”
He said the UK must continue to work closely with its European friends despite the challenges of Brexit.
Corbyn said, “Inside or outside the European Union, we share so many of the same problems: insecurity, growing inequality, stagnating living standards, unemployment, unbridled corporate power, a race to the bottom in jobs, the threat of runaway climate change and environmental degradation, racism and xenophobia, exploitation of migrants and the refugee crisis.
“We can and must work together across international borders. We are and must be internationalists: the voice of progressive Europe and European working people.”