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Analysis

Corbyn’s latest Brexit shift is not good enough

by Hugo Dixon | 09.07.2019

It’s good Labour will campaign for a People’s Vote and back Remain on any Tory Brexit. But it won’t say what it’ll do if there’s an election.

Jeremy Corbyn is continuing his long march towards a sensible Brexit position. If he had adopted today’s position a few months ago, most pro-Europeans would have been delighted. But now, with the prospect of Boris Johnson entering Downing Street and the possibility that this will trigger an election, the Labour leader’s continued vacillation is just not good enough.

But first the good news. Labour has said unambiguously not only that it will back a referendum whether the new prime minister seeks to leave with a deal or without one; it will campaign to stay in the EU in such a public vote. 

The chance of securing a referendum has probably gone up. If Johnson or his rival, Jeremy Hunt, tries to quit the EU with a deal, Corbyn will now probably whip his rebel MPs more strenuously to support a People’s Vote. With the backing of disaffected Tory MPs, we may have a majority in Parliament. If the new prime minister tries to quit the EU without a deal, the prospect of securing a majority in favour of a referendum will be even greater.

July 20th
Park Lane, London

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But what if there is a general election after Johnson or Hunt runs into a massive political crisis, something which looks increasingly possible? Corbyn won’t say whether he will go into that election promising to cancel Brexit, ram whatever Brexit deal he can negotiate through Parliament or put it to the people in a referendum.

This continuing fence sitting is foolish. Although Labour may eventually have to spell out what it would do, every month of ambiguity leads to an erosion of its support among voters. Pro-Europeans are moving increasingly towards the Lib Dems and Greens. And even if Corbyn finally gets to the right place, he will have very little credibility.

How much this matters for the pro European cause depends on how effectively the Lib Dems and Greens coordinate their activities. If they fight each other and Labour in a general election, it is possible that the hard-Brexit forces will triumph. But if they can form some pact, they could emerge as an attractive third pole in British politics. In that scenario, it would be important to leave open the door to working together with the Labour if it backs remain – or with individual pro-European Labour MPs even if the party continues to sit on the fence. We will also need vigorous tactical voting to maximise the chance of defeating the hard Brexit forces.

But whatever happens, we need to make more boldly the case for being in the EU. That’s why we are gathering on July 20 in central London to say “no to Boris, yes to Europe”.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

7 Responses to “Corbyn’s latest Brexit shift is not good enough”

  • Too bad Labour has already spent its goodwill among many. That’s what LibDem profits from. Too little too late from the red corner, I’m afraid.

  • Sorry, but it’s too little, too late from Corbyn.

    I defected to the Lib Dems back in April and see no reason to change my mind. Corbyn has totally lost my trust and he’s still not really for Remain. If Labour got into power, he would try for a Labour negotiated brexit deal and put that to a referendum. They should just cancel A50 instead.

    On the other hand, the LD are front and centre for Remain and now other parties are cooperating with them to help an LD candidate win that Welsh seat. This is what we need to help defeat brexit.

    There’s even a hint that the LD will just cancel A50 without the risk of a People’s Vote that could go the wrong way, if they get into power, which now actually stands a reasonable chance.

  • @Peter

    what polling analysis from the European elections show is that the working class are turning away from Brexit and the Conservatives, and back to Labour and LibDems.
    The shift is most visible in the north and south-west.

    on the other hand, there has been a reinforcement of Brexit amongst upper-middle class in the south-east

    that’s why, even in England (which had the highest polling for Brexit in 2016) the remain side is slightly edging above leave (and 55-45 UK-wide).
    in Scotland and Northern Ireland, it’s 70%+ against Brexit

  • Neither remainers or leavers have any faith in anything Corbyn says. He has made Labour entirely irrelevant to proceedings. And when he gets the general election he has hankered for for three years, he will realise that the loss of seats in the local and EU elections was not a blip but the electorate entirely ignoring Labour.

  • Brexit has shown that Jeremy Corbyn does not possess the charisma or leadership to win an election. At a time when Labour should be wiping the floor with this abject government, Labour is languishing in the polls because of his indecisive leadership. This is manifested by his inadequate response to anti-semitism and his faffing about on Brexit. He cannot deliver a speech effectively and when he shouts it sounds ridiculous. Labour desperately needs a decisive and credible leader otherwise they will fade into oblivion.
    The inner circle that allegedly is pulling the strings and advising Corbyn also need to be ruthlessly thrown out. He is a sitting duck for the Tories and it is no surprise that ‘keeping Corbyn out’ is a key part of their armoury of catchphrases designed to influence the politically illiterate voters. As a Labour supporter of over 50 years I am pained by the position the party founds itself in. Brexit will kill the country and Labour with it.

  • Yes… I have also defected to the LD…and I wish that the LD could form a core of the frustrated Remainers from the other parties. There are so many really good MPs out there who are not able to contribute properly…for example, the former (pre-Corbyn) Shadow Front Bench, many of the (traditional) Tories and independents.
    While Labout goes through its death-throws with Corbyn and his bag-carriers, the country is in dire need of an opposition. Anyone else but Corbyn would have picked up the reigns by now and lead a real opposition, but being a professional objector and not a doer, poor Jeremy just wastes everyone’s time with his pathetic announcements about Labour policy. He is best at navel-gazing and that is best performed on the back-benches.