Jeremy Corbyn has declined to rule out halting Brexit if it is the only way of avoiding a no-deal withdrawal from the European Union.
Asked twice whether he is ready to consider revoking the Article 50 letter informing Brussels of the UK’s intention to quit the EU, the Labour leader dismissed the question as “hypothetical” – but did not take the option off the table.
A Labour spokesman later insisted the party respects the result of the 2016 EU referendum and does not regard revocation as “in any way necessary”.
Mr Corbyn was speaking after talks in Brussels alongside shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and European Commission secretary general Martin Selmayr.
Describing the discussions as “very constructive”, Mr Corbyn said: “Our determination is to prevent a no-deal exit from the European Union next Friday.
“We are therefore looking for alternatives and building a majority in Parliament that can agree on a future constructive economic relationship with the European Union.
“We’ve been discussing how this could come about and trying to reach out here as both Keir and myself have been reaching out to colleagues in all parties in the UK Parliament.
“This morning’s meetings have been positive and we have done what I believe the Government ought to be doing – instead of bringing back a twice-rejected deal to the British Parliament, looking for constructive solutions.”
Asked whether he would consider unilateral revocation of Article 50 if it is the only way to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Mr Corbyn said: “These are hypotheticals. So far as we’re concerned, we think there’s an urgency in constructing a majority for an agreeable solution and that’s what we’re concentrating on at the moment.”
Asked a second time whether he is ruling out revocation, he replied: “We think that what we’re proposing can be achieved in the British Parliament, we do believe we can construct a majority which will prevent the crashing out and all the chaos that will come from crashing out, and that is what we are absolutely focused on.”
A Labour spokesman said: “As we have always said, we respect the result of the referendum and will do whatever is necessary to prevent a no-deal outcome.
“We do not believe that revoking Article 50 is in any way necessary.”