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Britain's Labour to campaign to stay in EU: Corbyn ally says

Jeremy Corbyn speaks on stage after he is announced as the new leader of The Labour Party during the Labour Party Leadership Conference in London, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON: Britain's opposition Labour Party will campaign to stay inside the European Union no matter what the circumstances, the party's new foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn said on Monday, potentially putting him at odds with his new leader.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader has raised fears among some pro-EU campaigners that he could scupper hopes of getting Labour voters to support staying in the bloc at a referendum due by the end of 2017.

Corbyn, who voted 'No' to Britain's membership of the forerunner to the European Union in a 1975 referendum, has been ambiguous about his views, saying he wants to see what reforms Prime Minister David Cameron is able to achieve.

"We are going to stay to fight together for a better Europe," Benn told BBC radio. "We will be campaigning to remain in the European Union."

When asked whether Labour would campaign to stay in under all circumstances, Benn said: "Under all circumstances."

Benn said Corbyn was clear he wanted to stay in the EU, but it was not yet clear whether Benn's position had been agreed by the party's new leadership.

Less than 24 hours after Corbyn's election, his deputy Tom Watson said he and Corbyn disagreed over key defense policies such as Britain's membership of NATO, and such issues "have got to be worked out".

Benn's comments were at odds with those of the party's former business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, who on Sunday cited Corbyn's views on Europe as one of the key reasons the pair had agreed he would not serve in the new leader's top team.

"It is my view that we should support the UK remaining a member of the EU, notwithstanding the outcome of any renegotiation by the Prime Minister," Umunna said in a statement.

"I cannot envisage any circumstances where I would be campaigning alongside those who would argue for us to leave, Jeremy has made it clear to me that he does not wholeheartedly share this view."

 

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