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Labour leader promises good EU deal, won't say he would lead Britain out

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, attends a campaign event in Manchester, May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates

LONDON (Reuters) - Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Tuesday his Labour Party would negotiate a divorce deal with the EU to secure tariff-free trade if it won power next month, but declined to say whether he would lead Britain out of the bloc no matter what.

In an interview with the BBC, Corbyn criticised British Prime Minister Theresa May for her “megaphone diplomacy” and “threats”, suggesting that she was poisoning the Brexit talks with the European Union before they had begun in earnest.

But he avoided answering repeated questions on whether he would lead Britain out of the bloc regardless of what kind of deal was agreed or if the talks broke down.

“People know that there’s been a referendum and a decision was made a year ago. We’ve set out very clearly our terms for negotiations,” he told the BBC, saying Labour wanted tariff-free access to the EU’s single market to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in Britain and to protect workers’ rights.

“The danger is of the approach the Conservatives are taking in their megaphone diplomacy with Europe and approaching the whole thing as though what you’ve got to do is shout loud and be abusive to people across the Channel,” he added.

Brexit minister David Davis criticised Corbyn’s approach to Britain’s departure.

“The chaotic incoherence of Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit means that the 27 other EU countries would make mincemeat of him in the negotiations,” Davis said in a statement.

Labour is lagging around 20 points behind the governing Conservative Party in opinion polls before the June 8 election, with May also overshadowing Corbyn on their popularity ratings.

Labour has struggled to take a stance on Brexit after most of the party supported the campaign to remain in the EU at a referendum last year, but many of its traditional supporters voted to leave.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Michael Holden