Corbyn brands May's talk offer as a stunt in Hastings speech

PUBLISHED: 17:12 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:56 17 January 2019

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at St Marys in the Castle during a visit to Hastings in East Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at St Marys in the Castle during a visit to Hastings in East Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn has attacked the prime minister's offer of cross-party talks in front of 200 applauding activists in Hastings.

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The Labour leader branded the offer as a ‘stunt’, saying Theresa May had made no “serious attempt to engage with the new reality that is needed” to force a Withdrawal Agreement through parliament.

Corbyn, who also told his supporters that a second referendum is still an option, said: “Take no-deal off the table now please, prime minister.”

Reiterating the party’s preference for a general election and Brexit deal on its terms including protections for workers and the environment, he said that if support for Labour’s alternative is blocked for party advantage “our duty will then be to look at other options,” including that of a public vote.

However, taking questions after his speech at the venue on Hastings’ seafront, he left open the question of which side Labour would campaign on in a public vote.

“If a second referendum should take place, then obviously the party will decide what role we will play in that and what our view would be,” he said.

“But I can’t really go along with the idea it should simply be a re-run of what happened in 2016. There has to be a discussion about the options that we put forward and we’ve put forward the three options that I’ve outlined.”

Corbyn is the only remaining Westminster party leader to not hold discussions with May, after she held out an olive branch across the Commons on Wednesday.

Speaking in the heart of the East Sussex constituency, which voted 55% in favour of Leave in 2016, he said: “Last night’s offer of talks with party leaders turned out to be simply a stunt, not the serious attempt to engage with the new reality that is needed.”

He added: “I say to the prime minister again, I am quite happy to talk but the starting point for any talks about Brexit must be that the threat of a disastrous no-deal outcome is ruled out, taken off the table, and we can talk about the future of the plans that we will put forward and the future relationship with Europe.”

A reporter who asked Corbyn whether other Labour MPs were also barred from meeting May or other ministers was met with audible discontent from Labour activists.

A smiling John Mann, a Leave-supporting Labour MP and long-term critic of Corbyn, was spotted coming out of the Cabinet Office in Whitehall at around 12.20pm, an hour after the leader’s speech.

Mr Corbyn said he had written to the prime minister on Thursday setting out his position.

He confirmed that Labour will table amendments to Monday’s motion, putting forward its preferred solution of a customs union with a voice for the UK in future EU trade deals, a close single market relationship and protections for rights.

He held open the possibility of an extension of the Article 50 negotiation period, saying: “Quite clearly, if no agreement has been reached within the time it could be implemented by the end of March, the issue of extending the exit date, extending Article 50, does come into play.

“Indications are that may well be the case.”

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