Corbyn to table no-confidence motion against May ‘soon’
Jeremy Corbyn yesterday pledged that Labour would call a no-confidence motion in Theresa May’s government “soon”, while again indicating that he would prefer to negotiate his own Brexit deal rather than call a second referendum if he became prime minister.
The Labour leader again refused to confirm that an immediate challenge to the government would take place if May, as expected, loses tomorrow’s key vote on her Brexit plan.
“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 that,” Corbyn told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show. Pressed on the timing, he added: “We’ll have the vote and then you’ll see.”
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Labour can call a no-confidence motion which would most likely prompt a general election if May lost.
Labour’s plan on Brexit, as decided at the party’s conference, is to seek a general election first. Only if this cannot happen would it look at the possibility of a second referendum.
While a large majority of party members, according to polling, want Corbyn to actively seek a new referendum, he has previously said it is more likely he would push to take the UK out of Europe with a different deal.
Corbyn declined to say whether a Labour manifesto in a snap general election would promise to deliver Brexit, arguing that this would be up to party processes, but strongly indicated his preference would be to depart with a deal that keeps the UK in a customs union and with access to the single market.
Asked what he would want to deliver on Brexit if there was an election and he became prime minister, Corbyn said: “At the very minimum, a customs arrangement with the European Union that gives us a say of what goes on but also avoids the whole issue of the problems of Northern Ireland, which this deal does.
“What I’m saying is we’re campaigning for a country that is brought together by investment. [People are] very, very angry about the way they’ve been treated in their different communities around the country.”
Pressed on whether he was campaigning to leave, Corbyn said: “We’re campaigning for a customs union.”
Asked later whether Labour would push for a second referendum if there was no general election, Corbyn said: “We’re then into that consideration at that point. 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 29 March, which would be catastrophic for industry, catastrophic for trade.”
He insisted his Brexit plan, condemned by some critics as unrealistic as it would contravene basic EU internal rules, was viable. “The EU is well known for its ability to be flexible, for its ability to delay things,” he said.
He rejected the idea that one of Labour’s six tests for Brexit – that a deal should replicate the benefits of membership – went against the EU’s basic tenets.
“We’re not tearing up the treaty of Rome any more than the EU wants to tear up the treaty of Rome,” he said. “What we’re saying to the EU is: ‘This is the political situation in Britain, where we have a country that’s divided on this issue. We want to bring them together, a trade relationship helps to bring people together.’ I think they understand that.
“I think you will find that when you get into serious negotiations as a government, determined to have that good relationship with Europe, that there will be an ability to negotiate.”
Labour has sent messages to its MPs to ensure they are present for tomorrow’s meaningful vote and also on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, some senior Labour figures are continuing to push for a second referendum.
London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, said he would step up his campaign for a second vote if an election was not called immediately. “A public vote would not only allow us to move beyond the current stalemate but would actually start the desperately needed process of healing the deep divisions that have opened within our society,” he wrote in the Observer.
Roy Hattersley, the veteran Labour politician, also threw his weight behind the plan, saying the “vast majority” of Labour members wanted the party to campaign for a new referendum.
Jeremy Corbyn wants a general election