BBC Question Time leaders special: Jeremy Corbyn fact checked
In the BBC Question Time leaders special, Jeremy Corbyn said of the options that would be included in Labour’s planned second referendum: “This will be a trade deal with Europe or remaining in the EU, that will be the choice that we put before the British people within six months. Any other option will require years of negotiations, either with the EU or the USA and put our public services at risk.”
This is not Labour’s position. Labour’s proposal is not to negotiate a trade deal with the EU before the referendum (which they have promised within six months of being elected). They propose to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, and the non-binding political declaration on the future trade relationship between the EU and the UK, but this is not the same as negotiating a trade deal.
The EU has said that it will not begin negotiations on a trade deal (and other aspects of the future relationship) until a withdrawal agreement is ratified.
It’s possible that Mr. Corbyn simply misspoke when he said “trade deal”, but his subsequent comments that “any other option will require years of negotiations” add to the confusion.
If Leave were to win the referendum on Labour’s renegotiated withdrawal agreement, the UK would still have to finalise its new relationship - we don’t have enough details on what Labour’s Leave deal would mean to know how difficult that would be, and therefore how long it would take to negotiate and ratify a new agreement.
If the UK wanted to join an established organisation like the European Economic Area (the arrangement that allows Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein barrier-free access to the Single Market), that could be easier to agree than a comprehensive free trade deal - but other EEA members would need to agree the UK should join. Labour has not so far said this is what it wants, talking instead of a “strong economic relationship” based on “close alignment.”
If Labour wanted to negotiate a bespoke trade deal with the EU, that would likely take longer. There is no realistic prospect of Mr. Corbyn’s trade deal being in place immediately after a second referendum result.
Mr. Corbyn also said, when talking about Labour’s tax policies, “95% of the population will pay no more whatsoever in tax. The top 5% will pay a bit more.”
This is wrong: Labour does propose some tax changes that would result in some of the 95% paying more. As we wrote in our fact check of Labour’s manifesto: “It’s correct that the Labour manifesto plans no increases in VAT, income tax or National Insurance for people earning less than £80,000.
It’s also correct that people earning less than £80,000 account for around 95% of taxpayers (somewhere between 95% and 96% according to 2016/17 figures from HMRC).
But that doesn’t mean Labour plans no tax rises whatsoever for these people, because there’s more to tax than just VAT, income tax and National Insurance.” For example, as an audience member pointed out, Labour’s manifesto commits to scrapping marriage allowance.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies manifesto analysis said: “If you want to transform the scale and scope of the state then you need to be clear that the tax increases required to do that will need to be widely shared rather than pretending that everything can be paid for by companies and the rich.”
You can read more on this issue in our fact check of the manifesto.