Jeremy Corbyn has blamed the “failed neoliberal policies” of the EU for the 2016 Brexit vote, as he vowed to push for “a different kind of Europe” after the UK leaves the bloc.
Speaking at the Congress of the Party of European Socialists in Portugal, the Labour leader hit out at the continent’s “political establishment” and warned EU leaders that a “business as usual approach” could end up fuelling the far-right.
“If the European political establishment carries on with business as usual, the fake populists of the far right will fill the vacuum,” he said.
“We have to recognise that EU support for austerity and failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship for working people across Europe, damaged the credibility of European social democratic parties, and played a significant role in the vote for Brexit.
The Labour leader campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU on a “remain and reform” ticket in 2016. However, he has been a longstanding critic of the bloc and its institutions.
Mr Corbyn told fellow European politicians that Labour would “respect” the Brexit vote, which he also blamed on falling real wages and a spike in child poverty.
And he vowed to build fresh alliances post-Brexit to bring about a left-wing agenda across the continent.
He said: “Our prize is a new progressive economic consensus that secures shared prosperity built on a powerful public realm.
“We must build a new Europe, inside and outside the institutions of the EU, that really does work for the many, not the few.”
BETTER BREXIT DEAL ‘PERFECTLY POSSIBLE’
The Labour leader’s visit to Lisbon comes ahead of next week’s crunch Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
In his address to the congress, Mr Corbyn said Labour’s own pitch to negotiate a “better deal” was “both desirable and perfectly possible”.
“Further negotiations are a small price to pay to get a solution that works for us all,” he said.
“We are confident that Labour’s alternative plan could command a majority in the British parliament, bring our country together and unlock the negotiations for our future relationship with the EU.”
The party is calling for a “new, comprehensive customs union” with the European Union as well as seeking access to the EU’s single market to allow “frictionless trade” and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Mrs May and EU leaders have, however, insisted that her deal is the only one on the table.
The Labour leader also gave his first reaction to the collapse of plans for a one-on-one televised debate between himself and Mrs May, after Downing Street, the opposition and broadcasters failed to agree on a format.
He said: “I was looking forward to a head-to-head debate with Theresa May on her botched Brexit deal, to shine a light on what it would mean for our country, and lay out Labour’s alternative plan.
“But unfortunately, when it came to it, as in the general election last year, when it came to it the Prime Minister backed off and refused the head to head debate on offer.
“Given that her botched deal would have a major impact on our country’s future and our relationship with Europe, this is the very last time for Theresa May to dodge scrutiny.”