Jeremy Corbyn 'not on same side' as David Cameron in EU debate

Jeremy Corbyn Train

Jeremy Corbyn has drawn a deeper dividing line with David Cameron over Europe, highlighting the leave campaign’s claims that the UK’s deal with Brussels may not be legally binding.

The Labour leader, who supports staying in the EU, categorically ruled out sharing a platform with the prime minister as he seeks to make a completely separate argument against Brexit. He stressed he is “not on the same side of the argument” as Cameron despite both fighting for the remain campaign to win.

Corbyn has strongly criticised Cameron for striking the deal with 27 other EU leaders to curb in-work benefits for migrants, saying it is irrelevant and a sideshow to the wider referendum debate. Speaking to ITV’s The Agenda, he said he could never imagine sharing a stage with the prime minister and pointed to comments by Michael Gove, the justice secretary and leave campaigner, that question the legal status of Cameron’s deal.

“We are not on the same side of the argument. [Cameron] wants a free market Europe. He has negotiated what he believes is some kind of deal over welfare and the ever-closer union, which is apparently legally questionable, according to Michael Gove.

“I want to see a Europe that is about protecting our environment and ensuring we have sustainable industries across Europe, such as the steel industry, and high levels of jobs and social protection across Europe. His agenda is the very opposite.”

Corbyn went on to attack Cameron for failing to do enough to tackle the refugee crisis engulfing the continent. “There has to be an agreement all across Europe that they all take a proportion of them,” he said. “The problem is that the degree of inward-looking politics that’s going on has meant that Greece is making a huge effort, Italy is making a huge effort and Germany is making a huge effort. Every other country is putting barbed wire entanglements along their borders to keep desperate people out … Surely in the 21st century the least we can do is reach out and try to help these people in some way; by the political solution in Syria; by the support for what the Greek government is trying to do and take a proportion all across Europe.”

In the wide-ranging interview, he also spoke about Cameron’s jibe that his mother would advise Corbyn to improve his dress sense, joking about being “obviously deeply hurt”.

“I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting his mother so I have no idea what she would say. My mother gave lots of advice and she said stand up for what you believe in,” he added.

Corbyn has in the past had reservations about the EU but after becoming Labour leader agreed a collective position to support the UK’s membership. Alan Johnson, the Labour former home secretary, is leading the party’s campaign to motivate Labour voters to back the remain campaign.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason, for theguardian.com on Monday 29th February 2016 23.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010