UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn says his party is ready to take on the job of negotiating the terms for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, ahead of a rare meeting with EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Corbyn criticized Prime Minister Theresa May and her ruling Conservative party’s handling of the negotiations and said he would do the job rather “respectfully” and in a friendly fashion.
“In contrast to the Conservatives’ megaphone diplomacy, we will conduct relations with our European neighbors respectfully and in the spirit of friendship,” he said.
“Our strong links with our European sister parties gives Labour an advantage in reaching an outcome that works for both sides,” the opposition leader added.
The comments were a jab at Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who had angered EU officials by suggesting that they should “go whistle” if they think the UK would agree to pay a large sum as financial settlement for leaving the bloc.
May’s government has on many occasions undermined and even mocked EU’s demand for a “divorce bill” of around £60 billion.
The latest reaction to that demand came on Thursday, when junior Brexit minister Steve Baker said London “won’t pay a penny” more than what it should to the EU.
Elsewhere, Corbyn said his party would try to secure “a jobs-first Brexit that also guarantees the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, “as it’s the right thing to do.”
While May insists that Brexit would only be possible by cutting all ties to the EU and losing access to the Single Market, Labour believes that there could be alternative plans.
Corbyn says the UK can leave the single market and join the European Economic Area, which has 31 member-states including all of the 28 EU countries.
He said while he respected the outcome of last year’s EU referendum, a “Labour Brexit” would be very different.
Corbyn is set to meet with Barnier in the Belgian capital Brussels on Friday.
By John Morgan