Jeremy Corbyn to set out Labour’s policy on Brexit

British opposition leader caught between Remain-supporting party membership and his own long-term anathema to the EU

In this grab taken from video, Britain's Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.  The British government brought its little-loved Brexit deal back to Parliament on Wednesday, a month after postponing a vote on the agreement to stave off near-certain defeat. (House of Commons/PA via AP)
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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will deliver a speech on Thursday setting out the party’s position on Brexit amid speculation that he may call for an extension of Article 50, which would keep Britain in the European Union beyond the current deadline of March 29.

The speech in Wakefield in Yorkshire, a Labour-held constituency that voted 66% in favour of leaving the EU, will see the British opposition leader add bones to his party’s policy on Brexit, which currently is ambiguous as they have allowed the turmoil in the ruling Conservative policy to dominate the public discourse.

Party insiders have damped down hopes that Mr Corbyn will seek to extend the time the country remains in the EU, despite the overwhelming majority of Labour party members supporting the country staying in the union. Many Labour-held seats in the north of England voted to leave the EU.


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Remainer hopes had been raised when Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said in the House of Commons on Wednesday that he didn’t think that leaving the European Union would actually take place when it was scheduled to.

“I actually genuinely think we can’t do it on 29 March this year,” Mr Starmer told MPs. “It’s simply not viable, for so many practical reasons. We’re going to have to look at what are the available options that realistically are still on the table.”

However, the leader’s office has moved to pooh-pooh that notion. Jim Pickard, the Financial Times’ chief political correspondent, tweeted that “Team Corbyn insisting he won’t use tomorrow’s speech in Yorkshire to call for an extension of Article 50, despite speculation around today”:

The Red Roar, a political website which has broken credible stories about Labour, said that Mr Corbyn would actually use the opportunity of the set-piece speech to recommit the party to delivering Brexit for the 52% of Britons who voted to leave the EU.

According to the website, Mr Corbyn will “promise that a Labour government would have ‘a renewed mandate to negotiate a better deal for Britain and secure support for it in Parliament and across the country’.”

Mr Corbyn is having to balance his perceived sentiments in favour of leaving the EU with the fact that a large majority of Labour party members wants to reverse the result of the 2016 referendum.

The Independent newspaper reported that Mr Corbyn’s spokesman conceded on Wednesday that the leader would be led by the choices of party members when it came to Brexit.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said Labour was “committed to respecting the result of the referendum”.

However, he said that “what our policy in a general election would be would obviously be decided by our internal party democracy.”

“The manifesto that any Labour party stands on is always decided by the democratic procedures. It’s set out in our constitution – that’s a fact.”

This leaves open the possibility that a special conference, which has been mooted by some key Labour figures, could be called to decide the party’s line.