JEREMY Corbyn has put himself at odds with his party’s membership after he insisted he would rather a Brexit deal is passed rather than having a second EU referendum.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the Labour leader said avoiding a no-deal Brexit was a higher priority for him than a so-called People’s Vote.
He also reiterated his party would be pushing for a General Election but said if it couldn’t force one he would like to see a deal struck rather than another referendum.
He said: “My own view is that I would rather get a negotiated deal now if we can to stop the danger of a no-deal exit from the EU on March 29, which would be catastrophic for industry, catastrophic for trade and the long-term effects of that would be huge.”
He added Labour would ask to extend Article 50 were it to get into Government before the Brexit deadline to give it time to negotiate a fresh deal with EU leaders.
“Clearly if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is voted down and clearly if a General Election takes place and a Labour government comes in – an election would take place in February/March time – clearly there is only a few weeks then between that and the leave date. There would have to be a time for those negotiations.”
Pressed on the party’s immigration policy, the Labour leader insisted he was “not against the free movement of people”, but conceded it would have to end when Britain left the EU.
Corbyn’s remarks on preferring a Brexit deal with the EU rather than a second referendum will dismay Labour’s grassroots. A poll last week showed 72% of Labour members in the UK want Corbyn to throw his weight behind a People’s Vote.
He told journalist Andrew Marr Labour would bring a vote of no confidence in the UK Government “soon”. He said people should “see what happens” tomorrow, when May’s withdrawal agreement is put to a vote in the Commons, but said his party would table a confidence motion “at a time of our choosing”.
“We will table a motion of no confidence in the Government at a time of our choosing, but it’s going to be soon, don’t worry about it.”
It came after May warned of a “catastrophic and unforgivable” breach of trust in democracy if her exit plan is defeated and the UK remains in the EU. With just two days to go before the Commons vote on her Withdrawal Agreement, she pleaded with parliamentarians to “do what is right for our country” and back her deal.
While Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, pictured above, said there had been “some movement” from MPs to support the agreement which is widely expected to be defeated, he said he thought that if it fell the Commons would eventually support something “along the lines of this deal”.
And he warned of a “growing risk” that Parliament could frustrate Brexit, following reports of “a plot” to change Commons rules to enable backbench motions to take precedence over Government business if May’s deal falls.
As speculation mounted May’s deal would be defeated, the PM faced calls from a predecessor, Sir John Major, to revoke Article 50 to halt Brexit – as he warned it would be “morally reprehensible” to crash out without a deal.
It also emerged that 14 military planners have been deployed to four key Whitehall departments to assist with no-deal planning, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Observer.
More than 100 MEPs from 26 EU member states have also signed a letter calling on the UK to “reconsider” the Brexit decision, saying the UK’s departure will “weaken all of us”.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling insisted the Government has put forward a “sensible compromise deal” before denying troops were being sought to help with no-deal Brexit traffic plans.