HARLOW, England — Jeremy Corbyn Tuesday insisted his timetable for holding a second referendum on Brexit is “realistic and doable.”
Speaking at a general election campaign event in Harlow in Essex, where Tory Robert Halfon secured a majority of 7,000 in 2017, the Labour leader said he would not promise a fresh vote within six months of taking power if it were not possible.
Labour has pledged to renegotiate the Brexit deal with the EU — which would see the U.K. remain in a customs union with the bloc — in three months, and then put that agreement to a public vote.
Asked whether his timetable amounts to a fixed deadline, Corbyn said: “The deadline is a realistic one.”
“[Shadow Brexit Secretary] Keir [Starmer] and I have spent many hours in Brussels and EU capitals going through our process with governments, with officials and with fellow socialist parties across Europe,” he said. “We wouldn’t be saying this if we didn’t think it was realistic and doable.”
The Labour leader added that it would take Prime Minister Boris Johnson longer to sort Brexit, because he would have to negotiate a future deal with the EU including a more distant trading relationship.
Corbyn said he wants to allow the public to “sign on the dotted line” when it comes to Brexit and defended himself against critics who accuse him of appealing to both Leave and Remain supporters.
“People sometimes accuse me of trying to talk to both sides at once in the Brexit debate; to people who voted Leave and Remain,” he said in his speech. “You know what? They’re right. Why would I only want to talk to half the country? I don’t want to live in half a country.”
He added: “Anybody seeking to become prime minister must talk to and listen to the whole country.”
Elsewhere, Corbyn said Boris Johnson would pursue “Thatcherism on steroids” after Brexit by seeking a trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump that would lower environmental, working and consumer standards.
“Given the chance, they’ll slash food standards to match the U.S., where what are called ‘acceptable levels’ of rat hairs in paprika, and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they’ll put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves,” he said.
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