UK Politics

Corbyn: Labour will seek amendment to any Article 50 bill

Jeremy Corbyn in Prague on 2 December 2016. Image copyright EPA

Labour will seek to amend any bill on the Article 50 process to withdraw from the EU, Jeremy Corbyn has reiterated.

The Labour leader told Sky News this was to ensure Britain maintained access to Europe's markets, workers' rights and environmental protection measures.

But his party would respect the EU referendum result, he said.

It comes as the government prepares to go to court on Monday to challenge the High Court ruling that it must consult MPs before triggering Article 50.

Mr Corbyn said: "When the Article 50 debate comes up we will put forward an amendment to it which will be on the issues I've just said on market access and protections.

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"We want those to be part of the negotiation but we are respecting the result of the referendum. It might not be the one we wanted, it's the one we've got."

He said Labour's amendment would not delay the Brexit process and that it was necessary to stop "those in the Tory party" who wanted to "sever all connection with Europe, reduce corporate taxation, set up some kind of bargain basement trade agreement with the US".

This, he said, would lead to a drop in wages, public spending and living standards in the UK.

Article 50 is part of the Lisbon Treaty, which became EU law in 2009, and sets out the process for countries leaving the European Union.

Once it is activated, the UK will be cut out of EU decision-making at the highest level and there will be no way back unless by unanimous consent from the other member states.

It will then have to negotiate its exit with the EU's 27 other member states - a process which is supposed to be complete within two years.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

Court challenge

Last month, the High Court ruled that the government could not begin the process of leaving the EU without a vote in Parliament.

The government is challenging this ruling, and its Supreme Court appeal case will be heard on Monday.

BBC News understands that a short three-line bill has been prepared by the government in the event of an Article 50 debate in Parliament, so that Prime Minister Theresa May can still meet her March deadline.

Sources have told the BBC they believe the legislation is so tightly drawn it will be difficult for critical MPs to amend.

It is not the first time Mr Corbyn has discussed the need to negotiate before agreeing on any potential Article 50 bill.

In November, he told the Sunday Mirror that Labour would push for the party's "Brexit bottom lines", including access to the European single market.

Brexit 'treated as footnote'

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn told the BBC Labour would propose the amendment to "try to force the government to bring their negotiating position to Parliament".

However, he said Labour would not vote against the Article 50 bill if the amendment failed.

The Labour leader's comments come as Attorney General Jeremy Wright accused the High Court of treating the referendum result as if it were "almost... a footnote" in a document setting out the government's Supreme Court appeal arguments.

Mr Corbyn is in Prague with other left-wing European politicians at the Party of European Socialists Council.

Earlier, he gave a speech urging progressive parties across Europe to unite against the rise of the "populist right" and accused some right-wing parties of being "political parasites".

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