Pressed to promise he would not go back on the British people’s referendum decision, he replied only by insisting Labour’s approach to Brexit was different from Theresa May’s.
“I was elected leader of this party and I’ll stay leader of this party,” he said. Speaking at Labour’s election campaign launch in Manchester today, he insisted: “We’re fighting to win this election. That is the only question.”
However, he sounded less assured when pressed by the BBC to promise he would not put Brexit into reverse.
Asked six times if as PM he would make sure the UK left the EU – whatever the final deal – he refused to say categorically that he would.
Earlier, in his prepared launch speech, he declared that the election “isn’t about Brexit itself – that issue has been settled – the question now is what sort of Brexit do we want”.
Mr Corbyn campaigned against Brexit in last year’s referendum although his commitment was questioned by some Remainers, including those in his own party.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said today: “The chaotic incoherence of Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit means the 27 other EU countries would make mincemeat of him in negotiations.
“We simply cannot take the risk of Corbyn in Downing Street in four weeks’ time negotiating Britain’s future.”
Richard Tice, co-chairman of Leave Means Leave, said: “Jeremy Corbyn was once a fierce critic of the EU although in recent years he has refused to flex his Eurosceptic muscles.
“His comments earlier are of serious concern – the Labour Party must make it clear it will ensure Britain leaves the EU.”
Mr Corbyn was joined at Labour’s formal election campaign launch by shadow cabinet ministers in a cavernous events venue in Urmston in the suburbs of Manchester.
Hundreds of Labour activists cheered for their leader – some chanting “Corbyn, Jez we can!” – as he vowed to transform Britain for the benefit “of the many, not the few”.
In what the Conservatives dubbed an “angry and divisive” speech, he promised a Labour government would be bad news for “tax cheats, rip-off bosses and greedy bankers”.
He said: “We have four weeks to ruin their party, four weeks to have a chance to take our wealth back, four weeks to show what kind of country we are.” And he warned of “a real danger the Tories’ fearmongering and spin will make some people settle for less than they should”.
He did not mention public finances in his speech, nor immigration, although later promised reporters his party would produce “a fair migration policy”.
Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin said: “This angry, divisive, chaotic speech makes clear the choice at this election.
“He didn’t mention the deficit or immigration – because he’d wreck our economy with higher taxes and more debt.”
Mr Corbyn was introduced on stage by ex-Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh. She recently starred as rape victim Trish Winterman in ITV’s hit crime drama Broadchurch.
She passionately told activists of feeling “excited and exhilarated” when Mr Corbyn became Labour leader because he shared her own values of “equality, justice and peace”.
There were 30 days, she said, to “turn this mass movement into a government, a country, a society that really gives a toss about stuff, about other people”.
After interviews, Mr Corbyn boarded Labour’s “battle bus” and headed for a shopping centre in nearby Salford, where he enjoyed an ecstatic welcome from activists and autographed fans’ posters and even T-shirts.
May 9th, 2017: Express