Jeremy Corbyn revealed his true colours on Brexit yesterday as he warned membership of the single market could scupper his socialist vision of renationalised British industries.
The Labour leader also raised the prospect of effectively staying in the EU for years as he said it was impossible to put a time limit on any transition period.
But Mr Corbyn, who faced accusations from his party of not campaigning wholeheartedly for Remain ahead of the referendum, said it was essential in the long term to leave the single market.
His remarks came as a group of Labour MPs, lords and campaigners called for the party to do whatever it takes to stay in the single market and customs union.
Jeremy Corbyn revealed his true colours on Brexit yesterday as he warned membership of the single market could scupper his socialist vision of renationalised British industries
Mr Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We need to look very carefully at the terms of any trade relationship because at the moment we’re part of the single market, that has within it restrictions in state aid and state spending, that has pressures on it through the European Union to privatise rail, for example.’
Giving an example of his concerns about EU rules on state assistance, Mr Corbyn said he would have wanted to intervene when the Redcar steel works was closed two years ago with the loss of 3,000 jobs.
He added: ‘The Government claimed there were issues of state aid. We disputed that … we would want to be able to invest in industries.’
Pushed on whether he was suggesting the renationalisation of the steel industry, he replied: ‘If necessary, in order to make sure we have a strong steel industry as the basis of a manufacturing economy.
‘But it’s also about a mixed economy … so for example I want to see a much bigger renewable sector.’
Face-off: A masked anti-Brexit activist marches in Brighton yesterday as the demonstration heads towards the Labour conference
He said a Brexit transition period – during which Britain would remain in the single market and customs union – should last ‘as long as necessary’.
Asked whether it could be as long as a decade he said, ‘no, I don’t think so’, but added: ‘I think it’s impossible for anyone to put an absolute figure on that.’
How tides ruined plan for ‘JC to walk on water’
Labour officials wanted Jeremy Corbyn to ‘walk on water’ and address supporters from a floating platform in the sea.
Organisers of an eve-of-conference rally planned to hold it on Brighton beach with the Labour leader on a raft off shore.
But the idea – which may have drawn comparisons to Jesus walking on water and preaching to crowds from a boat – was scrapped after concerns about tides.
Instead, the event was held in a skate park in Brighton on Saturday evening.
An MP who told the Daily Mail about the beach rally plan said: ‘They got as far as looking at tide times. They thought it would make a great picture – JC literally walking on water, sort of.’
A source close to the Labour leader said: ‘We’re inventive but we’re not that inventive.’
Mr Corbyn, 68, said at the weekend he wanted to serve ten years in No 10 – which could keep him in power until the age of 83.
Mr Corbyn was also pressed on the issue of illegal strikes, but refused ten times to give a straight answer on whether he would back industrial action called on a ballot of less than 50 per cent. He told the programme: ‘I will be supporting those workers in getting a decent pay rise.’
Labour avoided a potentially divisive conference clash on Brexit after delegates last night agreed not to hold a vote on whether its policy should be to stay in the single market and customs union permanently. The pro-Corbyn Momentum group had urged its members not to support a conference motion on Brexit.
When Corbyn ally and campaigns chief Andrew Gwynne was asked whether wrangling between Remain and Leave supporters could tear Labour apart, he told a fringe meeting: ‘It could, if we’re not careful.’
Hundreds of anti-Brexit protesters marched outside the conference venue yesterday waving EU flags.
Meanwhile, 30 senior figures – including former shadow cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Heidi Alexander, and one of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies in his early days as leader, Clive Lewis – wrote that the party should ‘commit to staying in the single market and customs union, ruling out no options for how to achieve this’.
The letter, in the Observer, added that Labour should work to ‘put an end to the exploitation of workers, not freedom of movement’.
÷Labour is facing a fresh backlash over plans to raise taxes for companies with annual profits under £300,000 to 21 per cent by 2020.
Representatives from the Federation of Small Businesses are set to confront shadow chancellor John McDonnell over the plans today.