LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to reform Britain’s relationship with the European Union is a sideshow, the leader of the Labour Party said, describing a proposed deal on curbing welfare payments to migrants as “largely irrelevant”.
While Jeremy Corbyn is known as a eurosceptic, the bulk of his MPs support staying in the European Union and he has said the party will campaign for that outcome regardless of the result of Cameron’s negotiations.
Corbyn past criticisms of Europe have given heart to the eurosceptic camp, underlining how the increasingly emotive and unpredictable in-or-out debate cuts across party lines.
Cameron is keen to clinch agreement at a Brussels summit of EU leaders this week that he can call a victory so he can start campaigning to keep Britain in the bloc before a referendum widely expected to be held in late June.
“The negotiations David Cameron is conducting on Britain’s relationship with the European Union are a theatrical sideshow ... They are not about delivering reforms that would make the EU work better for working people,” Corbyn told a meeting of the Party of European Socialists on Thursday.
Corbyn said Cameron was only carrying out the renegotiation to appease eurosceptics within his Conservative Party.
A proposal to limit some welfare payments to EU migrants in Britain, designed to address voter concern over levels of immigration, was “largely irrelevant to the problems it is supposed to address”, he said.
“There is no evidence that it will act as a brake on inward migration and it won’t put a penny in the pockets of workers in Britain or stop the undercutting of UK wages by the exploitation of migrant workers,” he said.
“David Cameron’s negotiations are a missed opportunity to make the case for the real reforms the EU needs: democratisation, stronger workers’ rights, an end to austerity, and a halt to the enforced privatisation of public services.”
Cameron says he is renegotiating Britain’s ties with the European Union to address concerns among voters that welfare payments are drawing high numbers of migrants to the country and that Brussels has too much power.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Andrew Heavens