WAKEFIELD, England – The United Kingdom’s opposition leader on Thursday reiterated calls for a general election in order for his left-leaning Labour Party to take over Brexit negotiations from the governing Conservative Party, which he said has failed.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke to workers at OE Electrics in Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, an area of the nation that voted 66.4 percent in favor of leaving the European Union in the 2016 referendum.
“If the government cannot pass its most important legislation then there must be a general election at the earliest opportunity,” the opposition leader said. He urged Prime Minister Theresa May to call an election or face a motion of no confidence against the government.
He acknowledged, however, that Labour did not have enough lawmakers in the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of parliament, to successfully oust the PM with a no-confidence motion, and would have to rely on cross-party alliances.
“This paralysis cannot continue. Uncertainty is putting people’s jobs and livelihoods at risk,” he continued.
“And if a general election cannot be secured then we will keep all options on the table, including the option of campaigning for a public vote,” he said, in reference to a second referendum, which has come to be known as a People’s Vote by campaigners in the UK.
Corbyn’s speech did not stray from his party’s message that the best way to break the deadlock in the Commons was a general election, but he has so far hesitated to throw his weight behind a repeat plebiscite.
“The truth is, the real divide in our country is not between those who voted to remain in the EU and those who voted to leave,” he said. “It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes,” he added.
May, whose Tory party has a minority rule propped up by an ideologically like-minded Northern Irish party, has so far this week suffered two considerable blows to her Brexit ambitions in the form of a duo of amendments, one lodged by a Labour backbencher, the other by a Tory, that seek to curtail the possibility of a no-deal Brexit scenario.
One such amendment, lodged by pro-European Tory MP Dominic Grieve on Wednesday, would force the government to come up with a so-called Brexit Plan B within three days should May’s current deal fail to pass a parliamentary vote scheduled for Jan. 15.
Critics were concerned that May’s cabinet planned to keep a no-deal Brexit option on the table to run down the clock and force MPs to vote in her favor as the official withdrawal from the bloc, slated for March 29 barring any last-minute extensions, draws closer.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have been divided over Brexit.
Voters in the UK voted to leave the EU by a slim majority of 51.9 percent versus 48.1 percent on June 23, 2016.