Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn: ‘The real issue David Cameron is concerned about is a dispute within the Conservative Party’
Published: 26 February, 2016
by KOOS COUVÉE
LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed claims he is a Eurosceptic at heart, making the case for a “social Europe”.
Speaking exclusively to the Tribune, the Islington North MP acknowledged his historically lukewarm personal feelings towards the European Union, but said: “Labour Party policy is to try and get the best deal out of Europe for this country and a social Europe for everybody.”
However, Mr Corbyn expressed concern about the EU’s “democratic deficit”, the economic strategy of the European Central Bank (ECB) and its power over austerity-stricken countries like Greece.
The Labour leader spoke before Prime Minister David Cameron announced his renegotiation deal in Brussels on Friday, which included restrictions on in-work benefits for EU migrants and protection for the City of London from regulations that could put British-based banks at a disadvantage.
Dismissing Mr Cameron’s renegotiation as “a lot of smoke and mirrors”, Mr Corbyn said: “The real issue David Cameron is concerned about is a dispute within the Conservative Party.
“It’s essentially a lot of smoke and mirrors which hasn’t actually achieved a great deal. And on the question of temporarily curtailing in-work benefits, I think there’s an equality issue about that. I believe if people are in work they should be getting the same conditions.”
Labour would instead be making the case for a “social Europe”, Mr Corbyn said.
“The case I’ve put forward is one for workers’ rights, and for Britain and Europe being more similar, because British workers have far lower levels of rights at work.
“Secondly, I would want to challenge the Fourth Railway package [opening up rail services to private companies] over the privatisation issue. I’m concerned with the way in which the railways are run in Europe and I believe they should be publicly owned.”
He added: “The other point is the right of countries to keep or take into public ownership certain services, and the question of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [a proposed trade agreement between the EU and the US], which is not part of the renegotiations.”
“Most trade unions in Britain, but not all, want to remain in the EU from the point of view of trade and the jobs that go with it, and that’s the view of the party which I’m putting forward.”
Three weeks ago, Mr Corbyn met Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, leader of the leftist party Syriza, to discuss EU reform and the European anti-austerity movement.
Asked how close he is to Mr Tsipras politically, the Labour leader said: “We both want to see an economic strategy around anti-austerity, and we’re both very concerned about the activities and power of the European Central Bank, although Britain is not in the Eurozone and isn’t likely to be.”
Mr Corbyn also revealed that Yanis Varoufakis, the former Syriza MP and Greek finance minister who resigned during the negotiation on an EU bailout package for the debt-stricken country last year, has met Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and will advise Labour in “some capacity”.
Mr Corbyn said: “Varoufakis is interesting, because he has obviously been through all the negotiations [with ECB, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund].
“I think the way Greece has been treated is terrible and we should reach out to them.
“I realise we’re not in the Eurozone but it’s a question of understanding how we challenge the notion that you can cut your way to prosperity when in reality you have to grow your way to prosperity.
“So all of our emphasis and work and campaigning is about an expanding economy and investing in an expanding economy.”