Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used his conference speech to declare that ‘all options are on the table’ regarding Brexit.
Speaking at the close of the conference in Liverpool, Corbyn backed shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer who previously defied senior Labour figures by saying an option to remain in the European Union would not be ruled out.
In a major boost to People’s Vote campaigners Corbyn said: ‘So let me say to the country. As it stands, Labour will vote against the Chequers plan or whatever is left of it and oppose leaving the EU with no deal.
‘And it is inconceivable that we should crash out of Europe with no deal – that would be a national disaster.
‘That is why if Parliament votes down a Tory deal or the government fails to reach any deal at all we would press for a General Election. Failing that, all options are on the table.
‘So let me thank Keir Starmer, the man who would lead our Brexit negotiations in government. Keir, having got agreement yesterday in this conference hall, getting one in Brussels should be a piece of cake.’
The conference has been dominated by splits in the party over Brexit with frontbenchers offering different opinions on whether Labour would back a second vote. Earlier in the week shadow chancellor John McDonnell said any new vote should not include an option to remain.
Corbyn added: ‘Labour’s plans to rebuild and transform our country and its relationship with the rest of the world are having to be made against the backdrop of huge uncertainty about Brexit.
‘Labour respects the decision of the British people in the referendum. But no one can respect the conduct of the government since that vote took place.
‘We all hoped that the people’s decision would be followed by effective and responsible negotiations that would protect living standards and jobs.
‘Instead, the main negotiations have taken place between different factions of the Tory party and the only job this government is fighting for is the prime minister’s.
‘Theresa May used to say that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. Yet now, after two years of botched negotiations she is threatening the country with just that choice: a bad deal or no deal. That is a threat to our whole economy, especially our manufacturing industry and to tens of thousands of skilled jobs here in Britain.
‘Now time is running out. Companies are losing patience. In the absence of any clarity from government they are planning to relocate abroad, taking jobs and investment with them. Some have already started and I fear more will follow.
‘The Tories are well aware of this but some see Brexit as their opportunity to impose a free market shock doctrine in Britain.
‘The prime minister is in New York today promising that a post-Brexit Britain will offer the lowest corporation tax of all the G20 nations. Handouts to the few, paid for by the many and an already tried-and-failed strategy for boosting investment.
‘Sajid Javid has set out his plan for more tax giveaways and to rip up people’s pension rights.
‘Liam Fox is itching to scrap workers’ rights and privatise the NHS with a side order of chlorinated chicken.
‘And then there’s Jacob Rees-Mogg who has expressed his personal faith in a Brexit Britain by deciding to base his new investment fund in the Eurozone.
‘The Tory Brexiteers unite the politics of the 1950s with the economics of the 19th century, daydreaming about a Britannia that both rules the waves and waives the rules.
‘Labour’s job is now to win support for a deal that meets the needs of the country, combined with our plan to rebuild and transform Britain with investment in our people and economy.
‘Our priority is clear – we aim to get the best Brexit deal for jobs and living standards to underpin our plans to upgrade the economy and invest in every community and region.
‘That can bring people together and meet the concerns of both those who voted leave and those who voted remain.’