Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has lashed out at fellow Remain campaigner George Osborne for warning of spending cuts and tax rises if Britain leaves the European Union.
Corbyn said his party could not support the "post-Brexit austerity Budget" threatened by the Conservative chancellor if the UK votes Leave on 23 June. However, he also attacked the 57 Tory MPs who vowed to oppose it, accusing them of "opportunism".
His comments at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday came after Osborne stood alongside his Labour predecessor, Lord Alastair Darling, to warn of a £30 billion "black hole" in the event of Brexit. This could lead to a steep rise in income tax and spending cuts for the NHS, education, defence, and police, they said.
Osborne and Darling insisted the figure was based on predictions from the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies. But Vote Leave, the official Brexit campaign, immediately dismissed it as a "punishment budget" .
Some 57 Tory MPs released a joint statement saying they would never vote for such a budget, adding: "We find it incredible that the chancellor could seriously be threatening to renege on so many manifesto pledges."
Corbyn – who has faced claims that his heart isn't in the fight for Britain to stay in the EU – used only his sixth and final question in PMQs to ask about the referendum.
He said the Labour position was to vote Remain "because we believe it's the best way to protect families, protect jobs, and protect public services".
But he warned: "We would oppose any post-Brexit austerity Budget, just as we have opposed any austerity Budget put forward by this government."
He asked PM David Cameron: "So, will you take this opportunity to condemn the opportunism of 57 of your colleagues who are pro-Leave – these are members who backed the bedroom tax, backed cutting disability benefits and slashing care for the elderly – who suddenly have now had a Damascene conversion to the anti-austerity movement?
"Do you have any message for them? Do you have any message for them at all?"
Cameron replied: "Nobody wants to have an emergency budget, nobody wants to have cuts in public services, nobody wants to have tax increases.
"But I would say this – there's only one thing worse than not addressing a crisis in your public finances, addressing it through a Budget, and that is ignoring it.
"Because if you ignore a crisis in your public finances, you see your economy go into a tailspin, you see confidence in your country reduced. We can avoid all of this by voting Remain next week."
After PMQs, Corbyn's spokesman confirmed that the Labour leader had no prior knowledge of Osborne and Darling's joint budget threat.
Asked whether Team Corbyn should be talking more to its pro-EU allies, he said: "There's a big difference in the Labour Remain campaign and the Tory Remain campaign – we certainly won't be supporting any anti-austerity budget."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at email@example.com.
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