Corbyn rejects criticism of Labour EU campaign

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning alongside predecessor Ed Miliband in Doncaster today
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning alongside predecessor Ed Miliband in Doncaster today
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JEREMY Corbyn has insisted Labour is focused on securing a Remain vote on June 23 despite repeated attacks on the Conservatives as part of its referendum campaign.

Mr Corbyn defended the tone of the Labour In For Britain campaign which has frequently trained its fire on the Conservatives rather than the wider Leave campaign.

He was in South Yorkshire today campaigning alongside his predecessor Ed Miliband and other Doncaster MPs Caroline Flint and Dame Rosie Winterton.

Critics have suggested the approach of Labour’s campaign is a reflection of Mr Corbyn’s own scepticism about the European Union.

But the Labour leader maintained he was fighting to reform the European Union within.

Mr Corbyn told The Yorkshire Post: “Its obviously a choice on June 23, a binary choice between one or the other.

“But I think the message we are trying to put is we think there are very important things that have been gained through the European Union, I used to be a union organiser I fully understand the working conditions issues, I’ve spent my life negotiating that.

“I also want us to have a Labour government that can change things in Europe.

“So it is not a nil result at the end of it, we are there in order to challenge on global corporations and tax avoidance that I have mentioned but also to improve environmental regulations and trade arrangements so we don’t export unemployment and import problems by unfair trade arrangements.

“For example the Chinese steel dumping is a crucial issue which the British Tory government only belatedly and very reluctantly and rather ineffectively has finally half got on board with.”

With the Conservatives firmly split on the issue, Labour voters are likely to play a crucial role in whether Remain wins the referendum vote.

Labour is officially backing the ‘in’ campaign and the overwhelming majority of its MPs are pro-European.

But Mr Corbyn’s own previous lukewarm attitude to the EU and his party’s attacks on the Government during the referendum campaign have raised concerns among the Remain camp that Labour voters could sit on their hands on June 23 rather than backing the same side as David Cameron.

Earlier, standing on a bench in St Sepulchre Gate, one of Doncaster’s main shopping areas, Mr Corbyn told an audience of shoppers and Labour supporters: “One very big problem we face is the Tory government in Britain.

“A Tory government that is cutting local authority funding, that is underfunding our health service, that is now saddling a whole new generation with even bigger debts at university.

“That Tory government wants a Europe that’s rather different than any of us on this platform want so a big step forward would be defeating this government on many of its proposals - the next one will be trying to defeat them on student fees.

“But above all it is about electing a Labour government in Britain that can do things very differently.”

Mr Corbyn and Mr Miliband visited a solar farm in Scunthorpe to highlight their case that EU membership helps efforts to protect the environment.

The Labour leader later visited Dearne Valley College which has been built on the former Manvers Colliery site with the help of EU cash.

• Jeremy Corbyn was coy when he was questioned about his decision to appear alongside his predecessor as Labour leader.

It was the first time Ed Miliband had appeared with Mr Corbyn at a political event since the Labour leadership election result in September.

Asked whether Labour was seeking to present a united front, Mr Corbyn said: “Ed’s a great friend of mine, why would I not be standing alongside Ed?

“We’ve known each other for many years.”

Mr Miliband has remained on the backbenches since resigning the leadership in the wake of last year’s General Election defeat.