Corbyn faces Brexit rebellion as Labour conference begins

23 September 2017, 23:36

Labour's conference opens in Brighton with Jeremy Corbyn attempting to turn up the heat on the Tories but facing a Brexit rebellion from pro-Remain Labour MPs.

The Labour leader and his closest ally John McDonnell are throwing down a challenge to the Government on tuition fees, offering to back the Tories if they cut them in the Budget.

But while Mr Corbyn accuses the Government of "floundering" on Brexit, he is being urged by Labour rebels to back the UK staying in the single market and the customs union.

Labour's offer to join forces with the Government to cut university tuition fees, pledging to vote with the Tories to reduce course charges, interest rates and debts comes in an interview with Mr McDonnell in The Sunday Times.

The shadow chancellor vows to back any move that cuts headline fees and raises the threshold at which graduates start repaying their loans from £21,000.

"What I am saying to him (Mr Hammond) is if he comes forward with effective proposals on thresholds and interest rates then we will support him," he said. "It has got to be a significant step.

"Because the Tories increased fees from £3,000 to £9,000, it has pushed the system into implosion. Seven out of 10 students aren't going to pay it back so someone has got to sort the system out because it's imploding around our ears."

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The Brexit rebellion comes in a letter to The Observer organised by Open Britain and the Labour Campaign for the Single Market and is backed by over 30 Labour MPs.

They include Chuka Umunna, Alison McGovern, Heidi Alexander and Clive Lewis, TSSA union leader Manuel Cortes, former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain and Liverpool's mayor Joe Anderson.

They call on the party to "have the courage of its convictions" on Brexit, "a clear alternative to the Tories' destructive Brexit", and say that it is "unsustainable to say we are an anti-austerity party" while being in favour of leaving the single market and customs union.

On Labour's current position, the MPs say "we must now go further" than supporting single market and customs union membership only as a transition.

"At our conference this week, Labour should commit to staying in the single market and customs union - ruling out no options for how to achieve this," they argue.

The leading shadow cabinet speaker on day one of Labour's conference is Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary and close Corbyn ally.

On terrorism, she will say: "You cannot keep the nation secure on the cheap.

"Yet, only on Friday the Chair of the National Police Chiefs Council warned that counter-terror funding to police forces was to be cut by 7.2% over the next three years.

"We oppose these cuts and Labour will reverse them in Government."

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On policing, she will pledge: "Labour in government will work to make communities safe by recruiting 10,000 new police officers working in the community."

On the Grenfell Tower fire, she will say: "We demand an immigration amnesty for former Grenfell residents so they ALL feel able to come forward for help.

"And Labour in government would recruit three thousand additional firefighters."

And she will launch a powerful attack on the Conservatives on immigration, declaring: "The Tories have weaponised immigration.

"Tory opportunism on immigration is a disgrace. They continue to talk about bogus immigration targets, which they have not met and will never meet.

"They have pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment whatever the cost to the economy and communities."

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