Jeremy Corbyn insisted there was “nothing half-hearted” about Labour’s pro-EU campaign as he made his first major speech of the referendum battle.
The Labour leader — who voted Out in the 1975 referendum and has expressed Eurosceptic views over subsequent decades — has been accused of making only a lukewarm contribution to the Remain argument so far.
However, he said it was clear that his party was “overwhelmingly convinced” that being part of the EU was in the best interests of the country on issues such as workers’ rights and the environment.
There remained serious “shortcomings” that needed to be addressed by Brussels, such as the proposed trade deal with the US which gave “huge cause for concern” about the potential for privatisation of public services, he warned.
All of these issues could be better dealt with, however, by remaining in the EU “warts and all” rather than by pulling out and leaving the country at the mercy of the Conservatives, he argued.
“We have had a very big debate within the party and within the trade unions,” he said.
“Overwhelmingly, the Labour Party and the trade unions have come to the view that they want to campaign for a social, just Europe to protect the workers’ rights that we’ve got, to extend them and extend that degree of justice.
“That is the position we have reached. That is the position that has been adopted by the party. That is the party that I lead and that is the position I am putting forward.
“There is nothing half-hearted about what we are doing, there is nothing half-hearted about our campaign, there is nothing half-hearted about our alliances.
“I have attended a number of meetings of the Party of European Socialists, I have had lengthy conversations with prime ministers and party leaders all across Europe on the social justice case, the environmental case, the issues of climate change, trade, and steel and all those issues. I have made numerous speeches on all these subjects. There is nothing half-hearted about what we are doing.”
Mr Corbyn said he did not believe “too many” EU nationals had come to live and work in Britain — and said higher wages, not curbs on free movement, were the key to immigration questions.
“I don’t think too many have come. I think the issue has to be of wages and regulations,” he said.
Asked whether British prime minister David Cameron welcomed Mr Corbyn’s intervention, the Tory leader’s official spokeswoman said: “What we are increasingly seeing as we get closer to the vote on June 23 is a number of people from different backgrounds coming out and setting out why it is in the interests of the UK to remain in the European Union.
“The prime minister thinks it is important people hear those arguments, because we will be stronger, safer and better off if Britain remains in the EU.”
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