Jeremy Corbyn was introduced as Britain’s “future Prime Minister” in Brussels before speaking at an event attended by seven European PMs.
The Labour leader told the meeting of the Party of European Socialists he was in the Belgian capital “to make sure that negotiations get on track” amid widespread concern Brexit talks have stalled.
Corbyn also met with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, and the prime ministers of Portugal, Italy and Sweden on Thursday in Brussels, while Theresa May attended a two-day summit of the European Councils.
He said afterwards that the EU was “bemused and confused” by the UK’s approach to negotiations.
“The Prime Minister seems to have managed to upset just about everybody and have a warring cabinet around her. It’s up to her to get the negotiations back on track,” Corbyn said.
The Labour leader was greeted with applause. By contrast, May was not invited to a meeting of Britain’s traditional European allies, including the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic countries.
He told the meeting a “no deal” Brexit would be “catastrophic” for the UK economy.
“We cannot countenance the idea that we rush headlong into a no deal with Europe. No deal would be very dangerous for employment and jobs in Britain,” he said. “We are clear in our priorities: a jobs-first Brexit which maintains free access to the single market.”
The Labour leader told his European allies that they needed to come up with “radical alternatives” for Europeans after years of austerity, rising job insecurity and falling living standards.
“The neoliberal economic model is broken. It doesn’t work for most people,” he said, adding: “Our broken system has provided fertile ground for the growth of nationalist and xenophobic politics.”
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s PM, who was invited to the meeting of the UK’s traditional allies, said: “We are all small northern European states with open trading economies, similarly values, very similar economies. That is going to be particularly important when we lose our biggest traditional ally, Britain, in a year or two.”
Coming out of an 80-minute meeting with Barnier, Corbyn told the Guardian he had described to the EU’s chief negotiator exactly how Labour would approach talks.
“His message to us was that he recognised that we are fully involved in the process in the British parliament,” he said. “It was the second time I had met Mr Barnier. We went through the issues, explained our position.”
Corbyn added: “I think there is a lot of bemusement. Their message is that they want clarity.
“They want to know what is going to happen on this, and our message to the British government is exactly that.”
When asked about how much the UK should pay for the so-called divorce bill, Corbyn said: “We should pay what we are legally required to pay. We should honour our commitments and we should work on that basis and that principle.
“You cannot leave EU nationals living in Britain in the limbo land they are living in, and the letter they sent overnight really doesn’t cut it. It is like something out of a civil service comedy, like in The Thick of It. Let’s have something grown-up.”