Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour is ready to fight an election campaign against Boris Johnson but refused to express a preference between leaving with a Labour-negotiated deal or staying in the EU.
The Labour leader said he was “absolutely” gearing up for an election, with a summer campaign plan, new policies on a green industrial revolution and candidates already selected in almost all marginal seats.
“Fundamentally it’s about reducing inequality in Britain and about investing in good-quality, sustainable jobs for the future through the green energy revolution,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
He said the public “deserve an election” but would not specify when Labour would call a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s government. If Johnson were to lose a no-confidence vote, the parties would have 14 days to come up with a potential government that could command the confidence of the House of Commons before a general election would be triggered.
Labour shied away from calling a vote on Johnson just before parliament broke up for the summer, because Conservative rebels wanted to give the new prime minister a chance to come up with a plan to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
But with Johnson ramping up no-deal preparations, speculation about the likelihood of an election is increasing.
Corbyn said he was “not in the slightest” bit worried about going up in an election against Johnson, who is the third Conservative leader he has faced. He said Labour would campaign for a second referendum and to remain in the EU if Johnson was proposing a no-deal Brexit. But Corbyn said the party was not necessarily in favour of remaining in the EU if Labour could negotiate its own Brexit deal.
Asked personally whether he would prefer to remain in the EU or to leave with a Labour-backed deal, Corbyn declined to make a choice.
“Investment, jobs, trade and equality, both in or out of the EU. I want those things,” he said. “What we proposed was actually a very credible deal. A bespoke customs union with the EU and the trade arrangements would have achieved those things. It didn’t go through parliament, that was the problem.
“My issue is also uniting people around the country. My party is the only one that had significant numbers of people who voted both Remain and Leave. We want to bring people together which is why I spent an awful lot of time listening to people with divergent views and we came up with the proposals which I put to the national executive and our party. Leadership comes from listening.”
Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, branded Labour’s position “hopeless” and said she would provide the “real opposition” to Johnson by opposing leaving the EU in all circumstances.