Labour not campaigning to exit EU, says its leader

Mr Jeremy Corbyn started leading Labour last Saturday.
Mr Jeremy Corbyn started leading Labour last Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Britain's newly elected opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he cannot imagine his Labour Party campaigning to leave the European Union (EU) at an upcoming referendum, easing fears that he would force the party to adopt a eurosceptic position.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership and plans to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether to remain or leave.

Since Mr Corbyn won an election to lead Labour last Saturday, his party has sent mixed messages on how it would campaign in the referendum, with senior figures adopting seemingly conflicting positions. Despite a heavy election defeat in May, Labour remains influential in northern England and Wales and could be key to deciding whether Britons vote to remain inside the bloc.

Asked in a BBC interview whether he could imagine a situation where Labour was campaigning to leave the EU, Mr Corbyn said: "No, I don't see that position."

"What I was opposed to, and I remain opposed to, is the idea that David Cameron could go around Europe and give up workers' rights, and give up environmental protection, give up a whole load of things that are very important," he said.

A survey by the pollster ICM on Tuesday showed that 43 per cent of voters favoured staying in, 40 per cent would opt to leave, and 17 per cent were undecided.

Mr Corbyn said he wants to see Europe pursuing a more social agenda rather than becoming a free-market haven. That position potentially puts him at odds with the reforms Mr Cameron is seeking, which include restricting migrants' access to benefits and reducing barriers to trade in the single EU market.

Mr Corbyn said that if he did not like Mr Cameron's reforms, he would oppose them and campaign to stay in the bloc in order to change those policies.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Labour not campaigning to exit EU, says its leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe