Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary has denied “pedalling back” from a threat by the party to trigger a General Election if Britain faced leaving the Single Market.
Channel 4 News grilled Emily Thornberry about a “bottom line” Jeremy Corbyn declared back in November, when he said Labour would force an early election if Theresa May did not agree to Labour’s terms on leaving the EU, which included Single Market access.
With May now saying Brexit means leaving the Single Market, Newman asked Thornberry whether Labour would proceed with its threat.
But the Labour MP did not give a straight answer and suggested what May said did not clearly break its “bottom line”.
Thornberry preferred to focus on Downing Street suggesting it was “prepared” to turn Britain into a low-tax haven with a hard Brexit.
Cathy Newman: She’s quitting the Single Market which was Jeremy Corbyn’s bottom line. So he’ll trigger a General Election?
Emily Thornberry: I appreciate this is confused. But it’s her speech I’m trying to react to. She says that she’s leaving the Single Market and yet she’s keeping all the good things she claims from the Single Market. And she says, and do let me make this point Cathy, that unless he gets that, she threatens Britain with a de-regulated race to the bottom where she’s going to try and attract lots and lots of other companies by asking them to pay hardly any tax at all.
Thornberry: Which will completely change Britain for the worse.
Newman conceded May’s speech was ambigious and asked whether Labour would vote for a Brexit deal that involved leaving the Single Market.
Newman: Jeremy Corbyn was quite clear that quitting the Single Market was a bottom line. Will you at the least vote against this deal to quit the Single Market in parliament?
Thornberry: Well, what we’re gonna try and do is we’re gonna push this Government into making sure that we have to leave the European Union, that’s what the British people have asked us to do but we have to get the best possible deal, which means looking after the economy first. We think that having proper access to the Single Market is absolutely, got to be a bottom line.
Newman: You’re pedalling back from voting against quitting the Single Market.
Thornberry: No, no, no. We’ve not said that we’re going to frustrate leaving the European Union we will be voting for triggering Article 50.
Newman: But you don’t know whether you’re going to vote for quitting the Single Market?
Thornberry: But the things that concern us from today is she she still doesn’t answer our questions that she has said unless I get everything I want I am going to turn Britain into an entirely different type of country. Hammond said and she said it today. I don’t think we should gloss over this.
What it means is that corporations would be paying hardly any tax. We’d be like some sort of Cayman Islands or some form of Singapore. Hot on the heels of not paying any tax would mean, if we were to go down to the same level of corporation tax of other countries, we would be losing £100 billion. That would be taken out of public services and then we would have to deregulate the labour market this is a race to the bottom.
Newman changed tack, asking a question Labour has faced before: Is EU immigration to Britain too high. Corbyn had recently told the BBC it was not, despite also saying Labour was not “wedded” to freedom of movement.
Newman: We’ve been talking about everything that wasn’t clear from the speech. But one thing that was crystal clear from the speech was that controlling immigration is more important to this Government than membership of the Single Market. Your position is still somewhat confused isn’t it? I just want to see if I can get any clarification on that? Is EU migration too high?
Thornberry: The first thing...
Newman: I just want clarity on that point.
Thornberry: The first thing the Government has said is immigration is more important than anything else at all. So we do not have that position.
Newman: I’m trying to get clarify on your position by answering the question: Is EU migration to the UK too high?
Thornberry: I think we have said that we’re not gonna die in a ditch for the sake of freedom of movement. There are many things that could be improved in relation to migration from the EU.
Newman: But I’m not asking about dying in a ditch. I’m asking is EU migration too high?
Thornberry: We’re saying that it’s open to negotiation but the first and foremost has to be the economy and frankly the answers [May] was giving today or trying to give today, actually opens up a whole lot more questions.
Newman: Quite like your answers tonight.