Outcome of the EU Referendum

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 27th June 2016.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 3:40 pm, 27th June 2016

First, I thank the British people for turning out to vote in the referendum in such high numbers. The vote was a reflection of the significance of the issue, but it was a close vote on the back of a campaign that was too often divisive and negative. The Opposition Benches put forward a positive case to remain part of the European Union and convinced more than two thirds of our own supporters, but the majority of people voted to leave and we have listened to and accepted what they have said. Many people feel disfranchised and powerless, especially in parts of the country that have been left behind for far too long—communities that have been let down not by the European Union but by Tory Governments. Those communities do not trust politicians to deliver, because for too long they have not. Instead of more extreme cuts to local services, which have hit those areas the hardest, the Government need to invest in those communities. Many such areas are deeply concerned about the security of pledged EU funding. That money is desperately needed, so can the Prime Minister give us any guarantees on those issues?

Secondly, there is the issue of trust. The tenor of the referendum was disheartening. Half-truths and untruths were told, many of which key leave figures spent the weekend distancing themselves from—not least the claim that a vote to leave would hand the NHS an extra £350 million a week. It is quite shameful that politicians made claims they knew to be false and promises they knew could not be delivered.

Thirdly, real concern exists about immigration, but too much of the discussion during the referendum campaign was intemperate and divisive. In the days following the result, it appears that we have seen a rise in racist incidents, such as the attack on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, to which the Prime Minister quite rightly referred, and sadly many other such incidents all over this country. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary will take all the action they can to halt the attacks and halt this disgraceful racist behaviour on the streets of this country.

As political leaders, we have a duty to calm our language and our tone, especially after the shocking events of 10 days ago. Our country is divided, and the country will thank neither the Government Benches in front of me nor the Opposition Benches behind for indulging in internal factional manoeuvring at this time. We have serious matters to discuss in this House and in the country—[Interruption.]