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24th Jun 2018

Interview

Corbyn: UK should pay EU what it owes

  • Corbyn (l) said his meeting with Barnier (r) was "frank" and "very instructive on both sides." (Photo: European Commission)

The UK should pay the EU what it is "legally obliged to pay" when it leaves the bloc, and a judicial dispute resolution system should be put in place to replace the European Court of Justice's authority over the UK, the British opposition leader has said.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader, was in Brussels on Thursday (13 July), where he met with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans and the UK's EU ambassador, Tim Barrow.

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The discussion with Barnier was "frank" and "very instructive on both sides," Corbyn said in an interview with a group of journalists.

He said that he didn't meet Barnier to negotiate, but instead "to set out what [Labour] said during the election campaign about free trade access to Europe."

"Michel Barnier fully understood our position that we were anxious to have a trade arrangement with the EU, to make sure there could be a continuation of the huge trade of good and services across the Channel," Corbyn said.

He insisted that his party's strategy was to "develop trade with Europe," rather than having a "low tax regime economy on the shores of Europe."

"There is a huge supply chain on both sides of the Channel and therefore a big interest in manufacturing as well as financial services on both sides of the Channel," he noted.

In addition to Corbyn, Barnier also met with the Scottish and Welsh leaders, Nicolas Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones, on Thursday.

The meetings came ahead of the second round of Brexit negotiations next week. Also on Thursday, the UK government published its position papers on three issues, but not on the most controversial one - the financial settlement.

The UK should pay "whatever we are legally obliged to pay," Corbyn said, while the British government has still not recognised the principle of paying.

The Labour leader said that "EU funded programmes in the UK that go beyond 2020 must also continue". The year 2020 is the end of the EU's current multi-annual budget, to which the UK has committed to contribute.

In one of the position papers published on Thursday, the UK government said that it wants to leave Euratom, Europe's nuclear cooperation body, but ensure a “smooth transition” into a new UK regime.

"I would like us to stay in Euratom," Corbyn said, adding that "regulation" had to be "the same across Europe as in the UK" and that it was "crucial for medical treatment".

He said that if the UK leaves Euratom, "there has to be a judicial dispute resolution process of some sort."

"With any international agreement there has to be a process of arbitration somewhere," he added, suggesting that such a mechanism should replace the European Court of Justice's supervision in other domains after Brexit.

After Labour fared better than expected in the 8 June general election, Corbyn aims to become prime minister if Theresa May were to lose the support of the Northern Irish DUP party.

He said that if he were in charge, he would "negotiate to protect jobs" in the UK.

"We want to protect jobs, we want to protect workers' rights and environmental conditions," he said.

Referring to one the major issues in last year's EU referendum, he pointed out the number of workers coming to Britain from Eastern EU member states.

"Importing groups of workers to underpay and undercut in industries in western Europe is completely wrong," he said.

He added that it was "unfortunate" that "some of the central European countries seem unwilling to sign up the amended posted workers directive," the EU law that regulates how workers are sent to work temporally in another country.

While the Labour leader seemed to endorse May's pledge to limit freedom of movement from EU workers, which carries with it the consequence of taking the UK out of the single market, he said that he would support EU citizens' rights in the UK.

"Our position is that EU nationals should be given unilateral rights to remain in Britain, including family reunions," he said. "And we would expect European countries to do the same with British nationals."

He said, however - and contrary to May - that Labour would not make EU countries' decision a condition to "grant EU nationals their rights to remain" in the UK.

As the UK government presented the European Union (withdrawal) bill this week, the opposition leader said that his party would do "everything we can to ensure that parliament has a vote on scrutiny over the details."

He said that it would "completely wrong" to use the so-called Henry VIII clauses by which the government can create or amend law without parliamentary scrutiny.

"It is embarrassing for the government - we will challenge them on this," he said.

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