The EU’s austerity policies have hurt ordinary people and could encourage the rise of the far right, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told an audience of Euro-socialists.
Corbyn also told the Congress of European Socialists in Lisbon that Labour believed in respecting the result of the UK’s 2016 EU referendum.
He said it was the left’s responsibility to ‘shape what comes next’ and that Labour would remain an internationalist party whether or not the UK left the EU.
The protection of workers’ and consumers’ rights should be a priority and this could be achieved by socialists across Europe working together, he added.
Corbyn condemned austerity and ‘failed neoliberal policies’ for causing hardship for working people in Europe.
He added that it reduced the credibility of social democratic parties in the bloc and was a significant factor in the UK voting to leave the EU.
The ‘fake populists’ of the far right would rush to fill the void unless the situation changes, Corbyn told his audience at the two-day event.
He said the far right ‘feeds on fears fuelled by falling living standards, damaged communities, insecure work and under-funded public services.’
Corbyn added: It (the far right) diverts the blame away from the powerful few responsible for economic and social failure and on to minorities.”
With four million UK children in poverty, wages stagnant and more families using food banks, European socialists must ‘fight for a different kind of Europe,’ he said.
Corbyn was scathing about Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit withdrawal deal and her attempts to convince MPs to vote for it.
He said she should go back to the EU and renegotiate the ‘politically unpopular’ deal, taking a tougher stance than previously.
Corbyn said his party would vote against the deal when it comes before Parliament on Tuesday and wants the UK to stay in the customs union and single market.
“Further negotiations are a small price to pay to get a solution that works for us all,” he said.
But the chances of that appear slim, as the EU has made clear that there can be no renegotiation of the deal prior to the UK leaving the bloc on March 29 next year.
Labour favour a General Election if Mrs May’s deal falls, as it is predicted to do, but Corbyn remains vague about his party’s support for a second referendum.
He was scathing about the refusal of May to debate with him on live TV before the vote next week, accusing her of dodging public scrutiny.
“When it came to it, as in the general election last year … the prime minister backed off and refused the head-to-head debate on offer,” he said.