Britain’s main opposition party is clear that Britain should stay in the European Union but believes the 28-member bloc should be reformed, newly elected Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Thursday.
In an opinion piece for the Financial Times, Corbyn, a left-winger who is more cautious on the EU than many of his colleagues, has moved to end confusion over his party’s stance on the issue after senior figures seemingly adopted conflicting positions.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and plans to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether to remain in or to leave.
Despite a heavy election defeat in May, Labour remains influential in northern England and Wales and could be key to deciding whether Britons vote to remain inside the bloc.
“Labour is clear that we should remain in the EU. But we too want to see reform,” Corbyn wrote.
He also warned Cameron that if he failed to deliver “a good package” or delivered one that reduced social gains Britain had previously won, “he needs to understand that Labour will renegotiate to restore our rights and promote a socially progressive Europe”.
After four days of mixed messages over his stance on the EU and referendum, Corbyn earlier told the BBC he could not imagine a situation when Labour was campaigning to leave the bloc.
“What I was opposed to, and I remain opposed to, is the idea that David Cameron could go around Europe and give up workers’ rights, and give up environmental protection, give up a whole load of things that are very important,” he said.
On Tuesday, a survey by the pollster ICM showed that 43 percent of voters favoured staying in, 40 percent would opt to leave, and 17 percent were undecided.
Corbyn said he wants to see Europe pursuing a more social agenda rather than becoming a free-market haven. That position potentially puts him at odds with the reforms Cameron is seeking, which include restricting migrants’ access to benefits and reducing barriers to trade in the single EU market.