Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn tells Tony Blair to respect the result

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at Labour's local government conferenceImage copyright

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Jeremy Corbyn urged Mr Blair to “get on board” with his strategy

Tony Blair’s call for a cross-party movement to try to force a change of course on Brexit is “unhelpful”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.

Mr Corbyn urged the former Labour prime minister to “respect” the referendum result and work on helping to define the UK’s future EU relationship.

In a speech on Friday, Mr Blair said that a weakened Labour Party was acting as “the facilitator of Brexit”.

But Mr Corbyn said: “We are going to be outside the European Union.”

Speaking in the City of London, Mr Blair said that the British people had made the referendum decision without knowing on what terms Britain would leave the European Union.

He said pro-Europeans needed to build a movement across party lines to challenge Brexit, in the absence of effective opposition in Westminster.

“The debilitation of the Labour Party is the facilitator of Brexit. I hate to say that, but it is true,” he said.

‘Democracy happened’

Mr Corbyn told reporters at the party’s conference on local government at Warwick University on Saturday: “Well, it’s not helpful.

“The referendum gave a result, gave a very clear decision on this, and we have to respect that decision, that’s why we didn’t block Article 50.

“But we are going to be part of all this campaigning, all these negotiations about the kind of relationship we have in Europe in the future.”

He added: “The referendum happened, let’s respect the result. Democracy happened, respect the result.”

Media captionTony Blair wants the UK to find “a way out from the present rush over the cliff’s edge”

Mr Corbyn rejected Mr Blair’s suggestion that the party was weak, pointing to its surge in membership to more than 500,000.

“I don’t quite know what Tony means there. Our party membership has more than doubled, we had a big campaign to remain and reform the European Union,” he said.

“We are now pursuing a policy which will try and protect jobs and conditions across this country but also maintain a good relationship with colleagues across Europe.”

‘Bargain basement’

Mr Corbyn urged Mr Blair to get behind the party’s vision of a future outside the European Union with high investment and reduced inequality, rather than a low-tax economy aligned with the US under President Donald Trump.

He said: “We are going to be outside the European Union. We are not leaving the continent of Europe, we are still going to work with them.

“I think it would be helpful if people put their energies in the direction of building those good relations and ensuring we have a viable economy, not some offshore tax haven bargain basement, doing deals with Trump’s America.

“My job is to take our party forward into an investment-led economy that reduces inequality in this country, that builds houses when people need them, that gets the good jobs people need in the hi-tech industries the National Investment Bank will fund.

“Get on board with that strategy.”

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