- Corbyn asks workers to back EU as best way to defend rights
- Labour warns of NHS financial crisis if Britain quits bloc
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lined up with union leaders to call on working people to vote for Britain to stay in the European Union after four polls from three companies put the “Leave” campaign ahead.
Backing membership of the bloc in next week’s referendum is the best way to protect jobs and rights at work, Corbyn told reporters in central London on Tuesday as he shared a podium with his party’s senior spokespeople and the leaders of Britain’s biggest labor unions in the movement’s biggest show of unity in the campaign.
“Staying in the European Union gives us the opportunity to defend and extend the rights of people at work, gives us the jobs we need,” Corbyn said. If there’s a “Leave” vote, “many at work will be significantly worse off when the bonfire of regulations promised by others take place,” he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron has turned to Labour for support as his strategy to keep the U.K. in the 28-nation EU comes under increasing pressure in the countdown to the June 23 referendum. The “Leave” campaign’s focus on reducing immigration appears to resonate more with voters than the government’s multiple warnings of economic recession outside the bloc.
Heidi Alexander, Labour’s health spokeswoman, complained the campaign so far has been dominated by warring factions in Cameron’s Conservative Party and warned the state-run National Health Service would face a massive funding shortfall if Britain quits the EU.
A Brexit “risks plunging the NHS into an even deeper financial crisis,” Alexander told reporters. “Much of this campaign has been about the Conservative Party tearing lumps out of each other and lining up a successor to David Cameron,” she said. “This vote is about so much more than that.”
The event, at the headquarters of the Trades Union Congress, is the clearest demonstration yet of the unity in the labor movement in favor of staying in the EU. Rights to paid holidays, reduced discrimination and maternity and paternity pay have been gained by unions as a result of membership of the bloc, Corbyn said.
“We want to extend those rights and we best extend those rights by working with trade unions, Labour parties and socialist parties all across Europe in the interests of the working people of the whole continent and of this country,” Corbyn said. “We’re making the strongest case we can from Lands End to John O’ Groats, from Norwich over to north Wales,” he said.
‘Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing’
Corbyn accused Justice Secretary Michael Gove, former London Mayor Boris Johnson and U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage of being “wolves in sheep’s clothing” when they say they would use money currently paid to the EU to fund the NHS. He said their arguments mask an agenda to cut workers’ rights and privatize public services.
“We urge all of our supporters to think very carefully about this and vote to remain next Thursday,” Corbyn said.