U.K.’s Corbyn Says Labour to Back EU Membership, Transaction Tax

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said Labour will campaign to keep Britain in the European Union as the bloc may support his goals to raise more revenue from the City and protect workers’ rights.

“The answer to any damaging changes that Mr. Cameron brings back from his renegotiation is not to leave the EU but to pledge to reverse those changes with a Labour government elected in 2020,” Corbyn wrote in an article for the Financial Times, published on its website late Thursday.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Photographer: Mary Turner/Getty Images

Corbyn has until now remained largely silent on whether he would maintain Labour’s stance to campaign unequivocally for Britain to stay within the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the bloc before a referendum planned by end-2017.

As well as remaining in the bloc Britain should also support proposals by 11 EU countries for a common transaction tax, Corbyn wrote. Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has fought to oppose the levy from its inception, claiming it threatens Britain’s future as a financial center.

Corbyn’s support for the tax will come as little surprise to Britain’s financial industry. The day after his victory, he appointed John McDonnell, a hard-line socialist who has expressed support for splitting up banks and once described bankers as “jokers,” as his finance spokesman, a key position in his top team.

‘Wasted Money’

“We must work with the 11 EU nations that are co-operating to bring in a financial transactions tax,” Corbyn wrote. “Unlike the current chancellor, who wasted taxpayers’ money in a failed legal case to block the tax, we would participate in negotiations to discuss how we can better regulate the financial sector and raise revenues.”

Corbyn has come under pressure to clarify his views on Europe since Labour lawmaker and former Business Secretary Chuka Umunna resigned from a key party job on Sunday citing differences with Corbyn over the EU.

The EU would also provide a platform through which Britain could secure workers’ rights, Corbyn wrote in the FT, as U.K. workers risked losing rights they enjoy under EU rules, such as paid holidays, working-hours protection and improved maternity and paternity leave. He vowed to oppose any attempt by Cameron “to undermine rights at work.”

“Too much of the referendum debate has been monopolized by xenophobes and the interests of corporate boardrooms,” he wrote. “Left out of this debate are millions of ordinary British people who want a proper debate about our relationship with the EU. We cannot continue down this road of free-market deregulation, which seeks to privatize public services and dilute Europe’s social gains.”

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