Corbyn: Brexit crisis can only be settled with an election – but not yet

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Jeremy Corbyn has used his Labour conference speech to repeat his call for “unelected” Boris Johnson to resign and become the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.

The Labour leader told party members that the UK faces an “extraordinary and precarious moment” following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Mr Johnson’s suspension of parliament was unlawful.

Mr Corbyn’s keynote speech in Brighton was brought forward to Tuesday following the unanimous verdict of 11 judges at the UK’s highest court – as MPs are now going to be returning to Westminster on Wednesday.

Addressing the ruling, which has sent shockwaves through UK politics, Mr Corbyn claimed the prime minister “will never shut down our democracy or silence the voices of the people”.

As Labour members chanted “Johnson out”, the Labour leader said: “Boris Johnson has been found to have misled the country. This unelected prime minister should now resign.”

Quoting the Supreme Court’s conclusion that Mr Johnson’s five-week prorogation of parliament was “unlawful, null and of no effect and should be quashed”, Mr Corbyn quipped: “They’ve got the prime minister down to a tee.”

Mr Corbyn declared the Brexit crisis at Westminster “can only be settled with a general election”, but stuck to his stance that the country should only go to the polls once a no-deal Brexit on 31 October has been prevented – and the UK’s exit from the EU has been delayed once again.

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This month, opposition parties have twice rejected Mr Johnson’s demand for a snap general election in House of Commons votes.

Jeremy Corbyn
Image: Party members chanted ‘Johnson out’ during their leader’s speech

Attacking both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – who used their own party conference to vow they would revoke Article 50 if they win power – Mr Corbyn said: “We need to get Brexit sorted and do it in a way that doesn’t leave our economy or our democracy broken.

“The Tories want to crash out without a deal and the Liberal Democrats want to cancel the country’s largest ever democratic vote with a parliamentary stitch-up.”

Labour’s conference has been dominated by rows over the party’s own Brexit policy, with senior figures calling for Mr Corbyn to adopt an unequivocal pro-Remain stance.

An effort to push Mr Corbyn and Labour into campaigning to stay in the EU in a second referendum was defeated in controversial circumstances, allowing the party leader to retain his neutral position.

In his conference speech, Mr Corbyn told critics his party’s Brexit policy was “not complicated”, despite criticism that it is too ambiguous.

The Labour leader repeated his promise that, within three months of entering 10 Downing Street, he would agree a new Brexit deal with the EU.

He vowed to then put a Labour-negotiated deal to a referendum vote with Remain as the other option.

Mr Corbyn said: “As a Labour prime minister I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide.

“Only a vote for Labour will deliver a public vote on Brexit. Only a Labour government will put the power back into the hands of the people.

“We can bring our country and our people together. Let’s stop a no-deal Brexit and let the people decide.”

John Bercow has called for the resumption of parliament within 24 hours of Supreme Court's ruling that prorogation was unlawful
Commons Speaker: Parliament ‘resumes’ on Wednesday

In his speech’s major policy announcement, Mr Corbyn promised a Labour government would create a publicly owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to the NHS.

Mr Corbyn said Labour would also tell “drugs companies that if they want public research funding then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all”.

The Labour leader described how he met Luis Walker, a nine-year-old with cystic fibrosis, who is unable to obtain the drug Orkambi.

He said: “Luis is denied the medicine he needs because its manufacturer refuses to sell the drug to the NHS for an affordable price.”

A Labour spokesperson didn’t provide a figure on how much creating a publicly-owned drugs manufacturer would cost, but said the party’s policy would save the NHS money in the long-term.

Mr Corbyn also attacked the bosses of collapsed travel firm Thomas Cook – alleging executives “were able to fill their pockets with unearned bonuses, while their workers face redundancy and 150,000 holidaymakers are stranded because of their failure”.

Promising to be a “different kind of prime minister”, Mr Corbyn said he would not enter 10 Downing Street “from a sense of born-to-rule entitlement”, adding: “Certainly not there for some personal power trip.”

Concluding his speech, Mr Corbyn told his party: “The tide is turning. The years of retreat and defeat are coming to an end.

“Together, we’ll take on the privileged, and put the people in power.”

Responding to Mr Corbyn’s speech, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s offer is clear – more pointless delay and a wrecked economy, leaving the country with higher taxes and fewer jobs.

“He can’t even lead his own party, let alone the country.

“Corbyn has repeatedly blocked the country having its say in an election, because he doesn’t trust the people and won’t deliver the change they voted for.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Labour supporters will once again be disappointed that Jeremy Corbyn has failed to show leadership and commit a Labour government to opposing Brexit.

“The reality is Corbyn’s public spending commitments mean nothing while the country is facing yet more economic uncertainty through either a blue Brexit or a red one.”

Despite Mr Corbyn and other Labour MPs returning to Westminster on Wednesday, Labour’s conference will still run into its final day.

Labour sources said deputy leader Tom Watson’s speech, originally scheduled for Tuesday, had been switched with Mr Corbyn’s and would now be given on Wednesday.

But Mr Watson, who survived having his position abolished in a fierce row at the start of Labour’s conference, effectively cancelled his own speech by revealing that he would also be returning to Westminster on Wednesday.

He posted on Twitter: “It’s right that Jeremy’s speech has been moved to this afternoon.

“I will be with all Labour colleagues in parliament tomorrow. I’ll have to save the speech until the next conference.”

Labour will not vote in favour of a parliamentary recess until Mr Johnson has secured a further extension to the Article 50 negotiating process, thereby delaying Brexit, from the EU.

Sky News understands the government is looking at tabling motion on Wednesday for a parliamentary recess in order to free up Conservative MPs to attend their own party conference in Manchester next week.

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