Sunday 25 September 2016

We're better off in EU 'warts and all', says Labour leader Corbyn

Joe Churcher in London

Published 15/04/2016 | 02:30

Jeremy Corbyn wants a level playing field on pay and conditions for solve the migration issues within the EU. Photo: PA
Jeremy Corbyn wants a level playing field on pay and conditions for solve the migration issues within the EU. Photo: PA

Jeremy Corbyn insisted there was "nothing half-hearted" about Labour's pro-EU campaign as he made his first major speech of the Brexit referendum battle.

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The left-winger - who voted Out in the 1975 referendum and has expressed Eurosceptic views over subsequent decades - has been accused of making only a lukewarm contribution to the Remain argument so far.

But he said it was clear that the party was "overwhelmingly convinced" that being part of the bloc was in the best interests of the country on issues such as workers' rights and the environment.

There remained serious "shortcomings" that needed to be addressed by Brussels, such as the proposed trade deal with the US which gave "huge cause for concern" about the potential for privatisation of public services, he warned.

All of those could be better dealt with, however, by remaining in the EU "warts and all" rather than by pulling out and leaving the country at the mercy of the Conservatives, he argued.

"We have had a very big debate within the party and within the trade unions. Overwhelmingly, the Labour Party and the trade unions have come to the view that they want to campaign for a social, just Europe to protect the workers' rights that we've got, to extend them and extend that degree of justice.

"That is the position we have reached. That is the position that has been adopted by the party. That is the party that I lead and that is the position I am putting forward."

He went on: "There is nothing half-hearted about what we are doing, there is nothing half- hearted about our campaign, there is nothing half-hearted about our alliances.

"I have attended a number of meetings of the Party of European Socialists. I have had lengthy conversations with prime ministers and party leaders all across Europe on the social justice case, the environmental case, the issues of climate change, trade and steel and all those issues.

"I have made numerous speeches on all these subjects. There is nothing half-hearted about what we are doing."

Mr Corbyn also said that the EU should consider introducing an EU-wide minimum wage to reduce the incentive for people to immigrate to Britain.

The Labour leader yesterday made his first speech of the EU referendum campaign, arguing that there was a "strong socialist case" for staying in the bloc.

But he accepted that there were concerns about the impact of migration on the UK - and said changes to wage laws could help reduce perceived pressures.

He said an EU-wide minimum wage could be tied to the cost of living in each EU member state, which would provide a "level playing field" for British workers.

"I don't think too many [migrants] have come, I think the issue has to be of wages and regulations," he said when asked.

"There has to be a case for a minimum wage tied to the cost of living across the continent.

"There is nothing wrong with people wanting to migrate to work around the continent, but there has to be a level playing field on pay and conditions."

Such a proposal would likely not see the same cash minimum wage across all countries - but instead see the wages match as a proportion of the cost of living.

Mr Corbyn's call comes a day after a report from the Migration Observatory suggested that higher wages was the main reason people from other EU states came to Britain - with very little evidence that the welfare system was a pull factor.

The report says the eurozone crisis has also led to six countries - Poland, Romania, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Portugal - accounting for 80pc of the increase in EU migrants living in Britain in recent years.

Britain will vote in a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union on 23 June this year.

Irish Independent

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