On 5 November Jeremy Corbyn delivered a speech on Brexit in Harlow as a key part of launching Labour’s election campaign. The following is the entire speech – leaving out only a few courtesy introductory remarks.
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In this election, Boris Johnson is trying to hijack Brexit to sell out our NHS and working people. He is trying to cash in the votes of millions who voted to leave the EU, to buy political power for himself and then sell them out. It’s time to call him out.
I travel all around our country all the time. I meet a lot of people. I listen to a lot of people. People who voted to leave in 2016, and people who voted to remain.
They all have their reasons. But I want to tell you something I find striking. Many people who voted to leave tell me they were voting for change.
That’s what they were promised.
Boris Johnson and the leave campaign promised to rebuild our NHS, and they promised that people would be able to take back control of their lives after years of watching their towns being run down: factories gone, jobs gone, their sense of community gone.
Three years on and Johnson is trying to hijack that hope for change and use it for his own very different ends. He stood in front of a bus in 2016 and promised £350 million a week for the NHS. Now we find out that £500 million a week could be taken out of the NHS and handed to big drugs companies under his plans for a sell-out trade deal with Donald Trump.
Just look at how these corporations operate in the US. They are ruthless. They will suck as much money as they can out of our NHS while cancer patients wait longer for treatment.
We now know that US and UK officials have been discussing drug pricing in secret, and the US government is demanding what its officials call “full market access for US products.”
Senior NHS managers have said that would mean “higher prices for medicines” which will “pass on costs to both patients and the NHS.”
So there we have it. Johnson can deny it all he likes, but people won’t believe him. And the Tories know that – which is why, behind the scenes, the Conservatives have tried to suppress the news attacking the BBC for reporting what we and health professionals are saying.
This is what they don’t want you to hear: a vote for Johnson’s Conservatives is a vote to betray our NHS in a sell out to Trump. Johnson’s Trump deal Brexit puts a price tag on our NHS.
So we’ll say it again and again until the message gets through to the White House: our NHS is NOT FOR SALE.
This threat to our NHS isn’t a mistake. It’s not happening by accident.
The threat is there because Boris Johnson’s Conservatives want to hijack Brexit to sell out the NHS and sell out working people by stripping away their rights.
For many in the Tory party this is what Brexit has always been about: reversing the hard-fought gains won by working class people over generations.
Given the chance, they’ll run down our rights at work, our entitlements to holidays, breaks and leave.
Given the chance, they’ll slash food standards to match the US, where what are called “acceptable levels” of rat hairs in paprika, and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they’ll put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves.
And given the chance they’ll water down the rules on air pollution and our environment that keep us safe.
They want a race to the bottom in standards and protections. They want to move us towards a more deregulated American model of how to run the economy.
In the US workers get just 10 days holiday a year, big business gets free rein to call the shots and tens of millions are denied healthcare.
What Boris Johnson’s Conservatives want is to hijack Brexit to unleash Thatcherism on steroids.
The Thatcher government’s attack on the working people of our country left scars that have never healed and communities that have never recovered.
The Conservatives know they can’t win support for what they’re planning to do in the name of Thatcherism, so they’re trying to do it under the banner of Brexit instead.
So I make no apologies. No apologies at all for Labour’s role in stopping the disaster of No Deal and resisting Johnson’s sell-out deal.
Never let them tell you that Labour has turned its back on the people we represent.
The Tories have failed on Brexit for three years. A Labour government will get Brexit sorted within six months by giving you, the British people, the final say. And despite what some commentators want you to believe, Labour’s plan for Brexit is clear and simple.
It’s time to take the decision out of the hands of politicians and trust the people to decide.
It won’t be a rerun of 2016. This time the choice will be between leaving with a sensible deal or remaining in the European Union.
That’s the policy. It really isn’t complicated.
So an incoming Labour government will first secure a sensible deal. That will take no longer than three months because the deal will be based on terms we’ve already discussed with the EU, including a new customs union, a close single market relationship and guarantees of rights and protections.
It’s a deal that will protect British manufacturing and respect the precious peace in Northern Ireland.
And then we’ll put that deal to a public vote.
So if you want to leave the EU without trashing our economy or selling out our NHS, you’ll be able to vote for it. If you want to remain in the EU, you’ll be able to vote for that.
Either way, only a Labour government will put the final decision in your hands.
Because this has involved the whole country from the start, it can’t now be left to politicians. To finally get this sorted and move forward we need the people to sign on the dotted line. And we will immediately carry out your decision, so Britain can get beyond Brexit.
Boris Johnson staked his reputation on leaving the EU on 31st October “do or die”.
“No ifs, no buts,” he said. So the failure to do so can only be his.
The irony is, for all his boasting, Johnson’s sell-out deal STILL won’t get Brexit done. It will lead to years of continuing negotiations and uncertainty.
Whereas Labour’s plan will sort Brexit quickly, because whatever the final decision, we won’t be ripping up our main trading relationship.
The EU negotiator Michel Barnier has said an EU trade deal on Johnson’s terms would take “three years, maybe more” of further negotiations.
Johnson’s sell-out deal with Trump could take even longer.
A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for yet more drawn-out, bogged down negotiations, more broken promises, and more distraction from the vital issues facing all of us – like making sure people have decent wages, secure homes, and a habitable planet for our children and grandchildren.
A green light for Boris Johnson’s sell-out Trump deal would just be the start of years more Brexit chaos and division.
People sometimes accuse me of trying to talk to both sides at once in the Brexit debate; to people who voted leave and remain.
You know what? They’re right.
Why would I only want to talk to half the country?
I don’t want to live in half a country.
Anybody seeking to become Prime Minister must talk to and listen to the whole country.
Labour stands not just for the 52 per cent or the 48 per cent, but for the 99 per cent.
It’s Labour that’s determined to bring a divided country together.
You can’t do that if your whole political strategy is to turn one side of the Brexit debate against the other.
The Tories are offering an extreme and damaging form of Brexit while the Liberal Democrats want to ignore the result of the 2016 referendum and revoke Article 50.
The Brexit crisis needs to be resolved but it must be done democratically.
Because walk down any street in Britain and you will find people who voted to leave and people who voted to remain.
Whatever our differences may be on this one issue at the end of the day we have so much else in common.
I like to put it like this:
If you’re living in Harlow you may well have voted to leave. You’ve got bills to pay, rising debts, work’s insecure and your wages barely stretch.
You’re up against it.
If you’re living in York it’s more likely you voted remain. You’ve got bills to pay, rising debts, work’s insecure and your wages barely stretch.
You’re up against it.
But you’re not against each other.
Labour’s plan will get Brexit sorted so a Labour government can get on with delivering the real change Britain needs.
So we can get on with rebuilding our NHS and making prescriptions free.
Get on with solving the housing crisis by building a million new homes and controlling rents.
Get on with bringing mail, rail, water and the energy grid into public ownership, and ending the great corporate rip-off of consumers.
Get on with creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs in every community through a Green Industrial Revolution.
Get on with giving Britain a pay rise.
Let’s get Brexit sorted within six months and build a fairer country that truly cares for all.
Where wealth and power are shared, for the many, not the few.
This is a once in a generation chance.
The future is ours to make, together.
It’s time for real change.