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Only mid-term poll can break Brexit deadlock, says Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday challenged British Prime Minister Theresa May to go to the people since, according to him, only an election can resolve the current impasse.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2019 18:22 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Brexit,mid-term poll,poll
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech on Brexit at a manufacturing plant in Wakefield, north England on January 10, 2019. (AFP)

As UK parliament clawed back reins on the Brexit process by inflicting two defeats on the Theresa May government in 24 hours, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday challenged May to go to the people since, according to him, only an election can resolve the current impasse.

The government was defeated on two amendments on Tuesday and Wednesday that curb its powers in the Brexit process, prompting charges that May is in office in Downing Street, but not in power.

The crucial vote on the withdrawal agreement is due to be held on Tuesday, but opposition to May’s agreement continues from pro and anti-Brexit elements, for different reasons.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up the minority May government, said: “We told Theresa May to stop wasting time last November, she is still not listening and she is going to put a plan to Parliament that is dead”.

Continuing the balancing act to assuage Labour’s pro and anti-Brexit supporters, Corbyn told May in a speech in Wakefield, west Yorkshire: : “If you are so confident in your deal, call that election, and let the people decide.”

He remained non-committal on tabling a no-confidence motion in the May government if it loses Tuesday’s vote, on the ground that Labour did not have the strength in the House of Commons to bring it down. However, he said it would be tabled at a time of its choosing, when chances of its success are better.

Labour does not favour a second referendum on the UK membership of the European Union. Instead, Corbyn wants to re-negotiate the withdrawal agreement with Brussels after forming the government after winning in a mid-term election. A section of the party is disappointed at Corbyn not insisting on a second referendum.

Corbyn reiterated his call for a mid-term election “at the earliest opportunity” to “break the deadlock” over Brexit, adding that a new government would have the fresh mandate to negotiate a better withdrawal deal with the EU.

But if Labour is unable to force the mid-term election, Corbyn said all options were “on the table, including the option of campaigning for a public vote”. May would forfeit the right to govern if she cannot get her Brexit deal through parliament on Tuesday, he said.

“A government that cannot get its business through the Commons is no government at all. It has lost its mandate so must go to the country to seek another… People across the country, whether they voted Leave or Remain, both know that the system isn’t working for them,” he said.

“Some see the European Union as a defence against insecurity and hostility. Others see the European Union as part of an establishment that plunged them into insecurity and hostility in the first place. But it’s the failed system rigged against the many to protect the interests of the few that is the real cause of inequality and insecurity,” he explained.

First Published: Jan 10, 2019 18:22 IST