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Leaked Emails Raise More Questions For Corbyn Team Over EU Campaign

A series of emails leaked to BuzzFeed News show Corbyn's spin doctor refusing to brief the press about the EU and adding lines attacking the EU in pro-Remain speeches.

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Jeremy Corbyn's team are facing fresh accusations that they obstructed Labour's campaign to keep Britain in the EU after BuzzFeed News obtained another set of leaked emails revealing disagreements between Remain campaigners and Corbyn's head of strategy, Seumas Milne.

The leaked email threads – reproduced in full below – will add to criticism that the Labour leader's office was reluctant to offer a positive case for EU membership.

One email exchange took place on 18 May, just over a month before the vote. In it, a senior figure from Labour In for Britain, the party's pro-Europe campaign, took Milne to task for failing to include lines about the EU in a Corbyn speech draft that was being briefed out to the media.

The speech was to announce Workplace 2020, a new set of Labour policies on workers' rights, and took place on 19 May, three days after 300 business leaders backed Brexit, partly to get rid of "Brussels red tape".

While Milne eventually agreed to add some lines on the EU in the speech, he refused to allow those lines to be included in the briefing sent to journalists ahead of the event.

In the other leaked email thread, from 16 December 2015, Milne was questioned by a Labour In for Britain figure for including strong criticisms of the EU in a speech Corbyn was due to give to the Party of European Socialists in Brussels.

The lines were eventually removed from the speech after another senior Corbyn aide intervened to point out that they did not match Labour policy and announced action that had not been talked about with the party's MEPs.

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A Labour source who was close to the party's HQ at the time said they were not surprised by the two incidents, as the leader's office was "uncooperative and unsupportive" when it came to the EU referendum.

Asked about the two specific email threads, a senior source who worked on the Labour In campaign told BuzzFeed News that they were "very representative, incredibly representative: There was that tension constantly.

"We faced resistance every step of the way, even in face-to-face conversations, and clearly a lot of it was driven by Seumas."

But Jeremy Corbyn's office dismissed the criticism. In a statement, a spokesperson said: "These emails are routine office exchanges. The reason for not releasing lines on the EU before this particular speech was in order to focus on Workplace2020, which was the main point of the speech.

"The theme of Jeremy Corbyn's referendum campaign was Remain and Reform, so it is hardly surprising that emails show the leader's office wanted that reflected in what was briefed."

Here are the email exchanges in full.


18 May email exchange

Seumas Milne:

Workplace 2020 will be at the heart of how Labour is going to develop our alternative for the workforce of the 21st century.

Instead of David Cameron’s Agency Britain, with its zero hours contracts, insecurity and wage undercutting, we will be engaging with workers and employers to shape the policies that will deliver the high quality jobs of the future.

Instead of a race to the bottom in jobs, pay and workplace rights, we will be shaping a different approach for the 2020s: based on a full-employment, high-skilled workforce, with decent pay, rights for employed and self-employed, and a voice at work through collective bargaining.

That’s the basis for a new business settlement in the economy of the future, one that benefits both workers and employers – and break with the low-pay, low-investment, low-productivity record of Tory Britain.

Labour In for Britain representative:

There is no eu content here.

We agreed to have Europe content in this.

Seumas Milne:

There's a few standard EU lines in the Stroud Workplace 2020 speech, but that's not the point of it, so that's not what's being put out

Labour press officer:

OK. How about the below? Have added EU and note to ed about workplace 2020.


Kevin/Seumas – can you confirm you’re happy and I’ll get out now.


***Embargoed until 0001Hs Thursday 19th May***


Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, will today (Thursday 19th May) launch Workplace 2020 at Ecotricity in Stroud and will say:

“Workplace 2020 will be at the heart of how Labour is going to develop our alternative for the workforce of the 21st century.

“Instead of David Cameron’s Agency Britain, with its zero hours contracts, insecurity and wage undercutting, we will be engaging with workers and employers to shape the policies that will deliver the high quality jobs of the future.

“Instead of a race to the bottom in jobs, pay and workplace rights, we will be shaping a different approach for the 2020s: based on a full-employment, high-skilled workforce, with decent pay, rights for employed and self-employed, and a voice at work through collective bargaining.

“That’s the basis for a new business settlement in the economy of the future, one that benefits both workers and employers – and break with the low-pay, low-investment, low-productivity record of Tory Britain.”

On the EU he will say:

“Crucial rights at work, including paid holiday and protection for agency workers, are guaranteed by our membership of the European Union.


“Those rights would be put at risk under a Tory government, which sees them as a burden, if Britain votes to leave next month. Which is one reason Labour is backing a vote to remain on June 23rd – to protect rights at work.”

Labour In representative:


Thanks, ok by me, still think story is in attack leave campaign admission they would hit workers rights.

Seumas Milne:

EU lines ok in speech but not to go out to media in advance, all that was agreed was that there would be EU lines in speech.
Can you send out without EU addition? Thanks, Seumas


16 December email exchange

Seumas Milne:

Speaking to the meeting of the Party of European Socialists in Brussels, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will say:

‘The Prime Minister has botched his negotiations with European leaders. He has tried to bludgeon them into accepting flawed and phoney reforms, which will not address the real problems of the European Union – and failed.

They have called David Cameron’s bluff, and he knows it.”

“Labour backs Britain’s continued membership of the EU as the best framework for trade and co-operation in a 21st century Europe. And we will support a vote for Britain to stay when the referendum is finally held.

But people across Britain and Europe know that the EU isn’t delivering for people in crucial ways - including jobs, communities and sustainable growth.

They know the EU needs to change if it’s going to work for the majority of its people, not just its banks and corporations.

Cameron’s timid and lop-sided demands, choreographed for the cameras, won’t address people’s real concerns and problems with the European Union.

Labour will instead be pressing a programme of progressive reform in Europe, to make the EU work for working people.

Labour In for Britain representative:


Hi all, I may be too late on this but, The language on Cameron's reforms and on the need for membership is not as per the agreed labour in script. I'm also not clear what our democratic ask is or the ask on social rights? I agree with sentiment on both but am unclear on what it means in practice? Which institutional changes are we calling for? And what new social protections are we asking for?

Have we cleared this with our MEPs? They will ask for the detail behind it and will be asked about it by their colleagues in the socialist group.

I would suggest keep to securing other EU leaders commitment not to let Cameron rip up social and employment protections which labour believes are crucial to working people in uk and across eu.


Corbyn adviser:

Seumas

I think there are some problems with this. The fourth para cuts directly across the lines in the Labour campaign. We have been phrasing this as pressing for reform to deliver the positive outcomes. Will redraft.

Same Corbyn adviser, later:

Tweaked and copied to [press officer]:

“The Prime Minister has botched his negotiations with European leaders. He has tried to bludgeon them into accepting flawed and phoney reforms, which will not address the real problems of the European Union – and failed.

“They have called David Cameron’s bluff, and he knows it.

“Labour backs Britain’s continued membership of the EU as the best framework for trade and co-operation in a 21st century Europe. And we will support a vote for Britain to stay when the referendum is finally held.

“But Labour also believes Europe needs a programme of progressive reform, to make it work better for the majority of its people, not just its banks and corporations.

“Cameron’s timid and lop-sided demands, choreographed for the cameras, won’t achieve that.

“That requires working constructively with progressive forces across Europe, to deliver positive change for working people.

Labour In for Britain representative:

Better. But we wont just support a vote, we will be actively campaigning for it. If we can strengthen that bit, I'm ok.

The line sent out to journalists was then changed to: "And we will support a vote for Britain to stay when the referendum is finally held."

Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Marie Le Conte at marie.leconte@buzzfeed.com.

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