November 21, 2018 / 9:20 AM / 21 days ago

HIGHLIGHTS-UK Labour Party's McDonnell speaks at Reuters

LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - John McDonnell, the man who would be Britain’s finance minister if the opposition Labour Party was in power, spoke at a Reuters Newsmaker event on Wednesday.

Below is a selection of his comments.

ON THE BREXIT INSTABILITY IN WESTMINSTER

“We just can’t go on like this. We just cannot go on with this instability, uncertainty that there is in government, day by day and sometimes hour by hour.”

ON SUPPORT FOR MAY’S BREXIT DEAL OR NO DEAL

“What’s coming out of it now, I think, is a lowest common denominator approach which is this at the moment a majority, by the looks of it, not to support the prime minister’s deal that she’s putting forward although that might change. It’s difficult to predict, but also I think an overwhelming majority to oppose anything that smacks of being no deal.”

ON WHAT HAPPENS IF PARLIAMENT REJECTS MAY’S PLANS

“Then we could be into a situation of a war of attrition within parliament of amendments to legislation taking place and uncertainty continuing.”

ON HOW MANY LABOUR REBELS HE EXPECTS ON BREXIT VOTE

“That’s a good question. There were five who voted with the Conservatives last time...they said no, well, we’ll support the Conservatives now but not necessarily in the future... I think we’ll hold our side now. I really do, and we have done on the votes this week.”

ON CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND A NEW ELECTION AND SECOND REFERENDUM

“(After a second vote on the Brexit deal) At that stage, we will be saying give us the opportunity, you’re a minority party, give us the opportunity to take over and see if we can form a government, a minority but with a majority position in parliament. If that’s denied us then we will be pressing for a general election but as you know you need that two-thirds majority it’s very difficult to get, anything could happen at those stages, at that stage then it is coming back to parliament then seek a majority for going for some second referendum, that’s when the discussion takes place about the nature of the vote.”

ASKED IF A 2ND BREXIT VOTE WOULD BE “DEATH OF DEMOCRACY”

“No, it’s not going to be the death of democracy...We just have to bring the country back together again. I have seen various polls about shifts in attitude. There have been shifts but they seem to have gone either way and so my fear is that if we did have another referendum we might get a same or similar result and the country would still be divided.”

ON HOW TO AVOID A NO-DEAL BREXIT

“What we’re trying to do now is craft our amendments to when the government comes back with its proposals that will give the opportunity for the House to indicate that it will avoid a no deal at all costs and I think there’s a vast majority of MPs who would support that and make sure, whatever happens, that ‘no deal’ is taken off the agenda altogether. I don’t think the current government can secure that sort of compromise either within its own party or across the house, that’s why I think the Labour Party can.”

ASKED IF HE IS A MARXIST

“I’m a socialist. I’m trying to rehabilitate the reading of Capital. I am a socialist. You just have to accept the roots of the Labour Party which stems from right the way back to Robert Owen and Cooperation and William Morris... and a raft other thinkers. But you have to insert Marx into that as well because I think it’s one of the best analyses of how capitalism works.”

ASKED IF HE’D BAIL OUT BANKS IN ANOTHER FINANCIAL CRISIS

“Under a Labour government, there wouldn’t be a financial crisis.”

ON FINANCIAL REGULATION

“We are going to come back with other ideas about further regulation, about what’s needed for the future, to restore confidence because I think there is still a lack of confidence. But more importantly is I want to establish structures where the finance sector is playing its role in the policy development and decision making processes.”

ASKED IF HE THINKS HE HAS REACHED OUT ENOUGH TO BUSINESS

“No not really.”

“We’re throwing everything we possibly can into dialogue, consultation, discussions etc. We need to be much more thorough in doing that (engaging with business) and much more systematic.”

Reporting by Sarah Young and William Schomberg; editing by Alistair Smout

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