London (AFP) – British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday made a case for Britain to stay in Europe in his first major speech ahead of a June referendum, after coming under fire for failing to campaign more.
Labour leader Corbyn, who voted against EU membership in a 1975 referendum, said that he had changed his mind about Europe and that it now offered protection for workers, consumers and the environment.
“A vote to stay in is in the best interests of the people of this country,” the 66-year-old veteran socialist said, while adding that he remained “very critical” of the European Union’s “shortcomings”.
“The case I’m making is for remain and reform”.
“Britain will be stronger if we cooperate with our neighbours… Europe needs to change but that change can only come from working with our allies in the European Union to achieve it,” he said.
Asked why he had changed his mind, Corbyn said: “The Labour Party and the trade unions have come to the view that they want to campaign for a just Europe”.
Corbyn has previously stated that Labour would support a “Remain” vote but the campaign has been criticised as lukewarm at best and the leader has a lifelong antipathy to the European project.
Some experts have also said Corbyn may be holding back since the referendum debate is proving so damaging to Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, which is divided on the EU.