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Jeremy Corbyn tells EU’s centre-left politicians he wants to build a ‘socialist Europe’
A Labour government would work to build a “socialist Europe” both inside and outside the EU institutions, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
Speaking at a meeting of left-of-centre parties in Lisbon on Friday, the Labour leader promised to emulate the success of Portugal’s left-wing government, which has reversed austerity policies and seen positive economic results.
Mr Corbyn said the continent’s centre-left parties needed to throw off the “failed neoliberal policies” of recent decades and find solutions to people’s problems – or they would find themselves displaced by the “fake populists of the far-right”.
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Almost uniquely among centre-left groups in Europe, the Portuguese Socialist Party is riding high in the polls and winning elections. It is governing on a left-wing platform with ad hoc support from the Left Bloc, the Greens, and Portuguese Communist Party.
“I want to pay tribute to the Portuguese left as a whole, the Portuguese Socialist Party and the parties supporting it in government,” Mr Corbyn told the Party of European Socialists congress.
“Because it has been that alliance of progressive forces in Portugal that made it possible to start to turn the tide of failed austerity economics.”
Mr Corbyn added: “Inside or outside the European Union we are internationalists to our very core.
“As socialists and trade unionists, we will work together to help build a real social Europe: a people’s Europe, a socialist Europe, that will strengthen solidarity across borders, resist the race to the bottom in rights and protections and work together to extend them for all workers, consumers and our environment.”
The Labour leader has been the star attraction at conferences of European centre-left parties in recent years, speaking to packed halls at other international meetings in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Labour’s surprise reversal of fortunes at the 2017 election and its increase in vote share was in sharp contrast to most other centre-left parties across the continent. Parties in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Greece, and Italy have plunged to historic lows, shedding voters – often to the far-right or populists. As a result, activists from around the continent looking for answers have been drawn to Labour to see if they can learn lessons.
“The stakes could not be higher. If we cannot rise to the task, then we will smooth the path to power of the fake populists,” Mr Corbyn said.
“The far-right feeds on fears fuelled by falling living standards, damaged communities, insecure work and underfunded public services. It diverts the blame away from the powerful few responsible for economic and social failure and on to minorities.
“The Right will always find a scapegoat; the Left must find solutions that deliver real change. If the European political establishment carries on with business as usual, the fake populists of the far right will fill the vacuum.”
The intervention in Lisbon comes after Mr Corbyn appeared to edge ever so slightly closer to backing a final say referendum on the Brexit deal. Writing in The Guardian newspaper on Friday he stressed his party’s position of keeping open “the option of campaigning for a public vote to break the deadlock”.
Labour says it could negotiate a better future relationship than Theresa May that would scrap restrictions on state aid and give the UK say on trade deals while keeping frictionless trade. But the EU would be unlikely to accept such a plan, having stated that different aspects of the single market cannot be chosen “a la carte”.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.