UK opposition leader Corbyn unclear on Brexit status | News | DW | 09.05.2017
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UK opposition leader Corbyn unclear on Brexit status

The opposition Labour Party's position on Brexit remains confusing after leader Jeremy Corbyn failed to clarify if a Labour government would take the UK out of the EU. Brexit is a key issue in June's UK election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was asked five times in a BBC interview if he would take the UK out of the EU if he became the next prime minister following elections on June 8.

"People know that there's been a referendum and a decision was made a year ago," Corbyn said in the interview. "We've set out very clearly our terms for negotiations." These include tariff-free access to the EU's single market, the rights of EU nationals living in Britain to be guaranteed and protection for workers' rights. 

Corbyn campaigned to remain in the EU for last year's referendum, but subsequently voted in parliament to trigger the Brexit process.

Pressed in the BBC interview on Tuesday whether, as prime minister, he would allow Brexit irrespective of the kind of deal achieved, he declined to say: "The danger is of the approach the Conservatives are taking in their megaphone diplomacy with Europe and approaching the whole thing as though what you've got to do is shout loud and be abusive to people across the Channel," Corbyn said.

A program to attract old voters

Labour's position on Brexit has been unclear after most of the party supported the "remain" campaign for the June 2016 referendum. Many traditional and older supporters voted to leave the EU.

Labour lost more than 300 seats in local elections held last week as the Conservatives gained more than 550, also attracting many voters who had previously voted for the anti-EU Ukip party.

The government's Brexit minister, David Davis, issued a statement criticizing Corbyn's stance: "The chaotic incoherence of Jeremy Corbyn's approach to Brexit means that the 27 other EU countries would make mincemeat of him in the negotiations."

Speaking at a rally in Manchester to announce his party's program, Corbyn promised a reckoning for "tax cheats, rip-off bosses and greedy bankers" if he won - but avoided directly answering questions about whether he would offer a second referendum on Brexit, saying the issue was settled.

The Labour plan promised decent homes for all, extra funding for schools and a "line" drawn under privatization in the health service, social care, energy market and the rail network.

Labour polling way behind Conservatives

Some opinion polls have Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party with almost double the vote share of Corbyn's Labour a month before the elections. Some commentators have suggested the Conservatives could take more than 50 seats in the House of Commons from Labour, which would give them a lead over the official opposition of more than a hundred seats.

In the last general elections in 2015, the Labour Party won 58 seats with a majority of 9,000 votes or less. In all of them, a majority of people voted "Leave" in the Brexit referendum.

Pollsters have also found that class is no longer a dividing line in British politics with the Conservatives attracting more and more working-class voters.

A YouGov poll showed 43 percent of skilled and unskilled manual laborers, casual workers and pensioners said they intended to vote Conservative in the June poll. The Labour Party share of support from the same group has slumped to 26 percent, although it does better in the 18-24 age group where support is running at just over 40 percent.

jm/kms (Reuters, AP)

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