UK's Corbyn says EU wants good post-Brexit ties

Brussels (AFP) –


British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the European Union wants a "good relationship" after Brexit, following talks in Brussels Thursday with the bloc's chief negotiator.

After giving EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier a gift of an Arsenal football jersey with his name printed on it, they held "frank" talks on future ties, Corbyn told reporters.

Barnier also met the first ministers of Scotland and Wales in a move that risked further undermining Prime Minister Theresa May's fragile government.

"They want a good relationship in the future, of that I'm very sure," left-wing leader Corbyn told reporters after the talks with Barnier and his team at the European Commission in Brussels.

"We had a frank discussion about the process and about the situation," he said.

"And we've been able to inform him of our respect for the result of the referendum, our wish to maintain and defend jobs in Britain and to have an effective economic relationship with Europe in the future... It was a very useful meeting."

Britain narrowly voted to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016. The country is set to withdraw in March 2019 after negotiations on the divorce and a possible future trade deal.

Barnier, a former European commissioner and French ex-foreign minister, said on Twitter afterwards that they were "good meetings".

Defending the decision to meet Corbyn, Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon and Wales's Carwyn Jones just days before the latest round of official Brexit negotiations on Monday, Barnier added: "My door is open, listen to all #Brexit views".

But Corbyn, riding high after May's Conservative party disastrously lost its majority in elections last month, said as he went into the meeting that "Labour is a government-in-waiting and we are ready to take up the responsibility for Brexit negotiations."

Barnier presented Corbyn with a poster of his native Savoie region in France, and gave the thumbs-up to the Arsenal football shirt.

"Mr Barnier was very pleased with the Arsenal shirt, as you know I am an Arsenal supporter, and (Arsenal manager) Arsene Wenger is of course French," Corbyn said.