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Jeremy Corbyn facing questions over EU stance

Jeremy Corbyn is facing questions from his own MPs over his stance on the EU ahead of the in/out referendum.

The new Labour leader, who is due to address the TUC in Brighton later, has in the past been seen as a Eurosceptic.

He has signalled he will support a vote to stay in but said David Cameron must not be given a “blank cheque” in talks with other EU leaders.

He faced tough questions on his stance at a meeting with Labour MPs, most of whom did not back his candidacy.

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn had earlier attempted to calm fears among many Labour MPs that Mr Corbyn could campaign for Britain to leave the EU, insisting the new Labour leader had told him “we will stay to fight together for a better Europe”.

National security

But Mr Corbyn appeared to suggest he would not back an “in” vote at any cost, with Labour MPs, saying the changes Mr Cameron agreed to social and employment protections had to be “right ones”.

Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said it was too early to say how the party would campaign.

She told BBC 2’s Newsnight: “That has got to be the aim but we are not going to, before we even know what the prime minister is going to come back with, know precisely how we are going to be campaigning.”

Labour MP and former home secretary Alan Johnson has been lined up to lead Labour’s campaign to stay in the UK in the referendum, which is expected before the end of 2017.

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Mr Corbyn was also quizzed by Labour MPs on Northern Ireland, the refugee crisis, national security and Syria, according to reports on twitter from MPs (the meeting was closed to journalists).

‘White poppy’

The atmosphere was not hostile, according to reports, but he was not met by MPs banging on tables – the traditional greeting for a new leader.

Mr Corbyn is likely to receive a more enthusiastic reception later when he addresses trade union delegates later in Brighton.

He is also due to attend a service to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The new Labour leader faced murmurs of “hostility and concern” from some Labour MPs at Monday’s meeting after he refused to rule out wearing a white poppy on Remembrance Sunday, one of those present said.

“The point he made was that he had not decided what he would do this year. He went on to say why people wear white poppies,” said Labour MP Simon Danczuk.

“He should wear a red one in memory of members of the armed forces who have given their lives. It is one day in the year that it’s important not to focus on other issues.

Mr Corbyn has previously worn both red and white poppies together on his lapel when laying a wreath at the war memorial in Islington as a local MP, the London Evening Standard reported.

A Labour Party spokeswoman confirmed later that Mr Corbyn, who is chairman of the Stop the War coalition, would wear a red poppy on Remembrance Sunday.

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According to the Stop The War coalition, wearing a white poppy is a “respectful way to put peace at the heart of remembering those who died in war”.

Capitalism ‘failing’

Mr Corbyn has sought to address some of the ructions caused by his victory by forming what he said was a “unifying” shadow cabinet but his appointment of fellow left-wing MP John McDonnell to the key role of shadow chancellor has angered some in the party.

Mr Corbyn has pledged to oppose the government’s spending and welfare cuts and also to challenge a proposed new law tightening the rules on trade union strike ballots. Proposals that would impose a 50% threshold for participation in strike ballot, and a 40% threshold for stoppages involving essential public services, passed their first parliamentary hurdle when they were backed by MPs by 33 votes.

In his first TV interview on Monday, newly appointed shadow chancellor John McDonnell said capitalism was “failing” and he wanted to “transform it”. He told Channel 4 News he believed the role of shadow chancellor was “to put forward an alternative to what’s happening at the moment”.

He said he was “not particularly interested in tax on income” and instead wanted to focus on those who were “literally laughing all the way to the bank” and “not paying their fair share”.

Writing in the Times, Chancellor George Osborne said that Mr McDonnell’s appointment broke decades of economic consensus.

“Far from celebrating this turmoil, for me, as chancellor, this means going back to first principles and winning again the arguments made by both Conservative and previous Labour governments alike,” he said.

“As the whole Labour party shifts left, abandoning the centre ground, it abandons the working people of this country, including millions who voted Labour but do not support the ideas of the party’s new leadership,” added Mr Osborne.


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