Jeremy Corbyn Says 'Britain Needs A Pay Rise' And Hits Out At Pace Of Brexit Talks

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Delaying a transitional Brexit deal until next autumn would not be " good enough" and Britain needs a "pay rise", Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Monday (6 November).

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference in London, Corbyn said the terms of the economic debate have shifted dramatically over the last 12 months, with six million among those in work earning less than the living wage.

"Britain needs a pay rise," he said.

"When too much of household income is going to pay debts or rent then that's less money for consumers to spend on productive businesses.

"That's why Labour backs a real living wage and sensible controls on rents and debts."

Last month, Britain's statistical office warned wages continued to lag behind inflation, which hit the highest level since April 2012 last month, as it rose to 3%.

Average weekly earnings rose by 2.2% year-on-year, in line with the gain recorded in the previous month and slightly above the 2.1% figure analysts expected.

However, when the impact of inflation is factored in, real weekly wages fell by 0.3%, when including bonuses and by 0.4% when excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

"An economic model that allows a few to grow very rich while the majority face falling incomes and rising indebtedness, that leaves too many people in unfulfilling and insecure work, that is overly reliant on one sector in one region of our country, is neither stable nor sustainable," the Labour leader added.

'Time is running out'

On the subject of Brexit, Corbyn warned Britain was in a more "precarious and uncertain" than ever, indicating the prospect of not agreeing a transitional deal until next autumn could be highly detrimental to UK businesses.

"Watching chaos and confusion grow at the heart of government and Brexit negotiations stuck in a stalemate, many of you probably feel that the situation is more uncertain and more precarious than ever," he said.

"To delay a transition deal until a final deal is agreed, as the prime minister says she wants to do, is simply not good enough. The prospect of sudden changes in the legal and regulatory environment in which people do business is affecting your decisions right now."

Speaking at the same event earlier in the day, Prime Minister Theresa May hinted that she would be in favour of a transition agreement with the European Union in the run-up to Brexit.

The PM said the government wanted to forge a new ambitious relationship with the EU, but with a new balance of rights and responsibilities.

"I have made clear that a strictly time-limited implementation period will be crucial to our future success," she added.

However, Corbyn warned the clock was ticking on Brexit and that Britain was at serious risk of running out of time to secure a business-friendly deal.

"Time is running out," he told the audience.

"We need a Brexit that puts jobs and living standards first – it is Labour that has common ground with you on putting the needs of the economy front and centre stage.

"We have common ground on the need for transitional arrangements to be agreed immediately, so that businesses know they won't face a cliff-edge Brexit when the two year negotiating period is up."

His comments came after the president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned the majority of UK firms will begin moving staff and delay investment by March next year if no Brexit transition deal in place.

Paul Drechsler said a poll of 306 companies by the CBI revealed that a quarter will trigger contingency plans by January if there is no transition deal in place, while a further quarter said they would wait until March.

"Labour are right that agreeing a transition deal as soon as possible is mission critical to maintain business confidence," said CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn.

"There is cross party agreement on this now and so this is the time for urgent action."