Why the Labour Party will be the chief casualty of Brexit

James Faulkner

On 6th February Jeremy Corbyn wrote a letter to the Prime Minister arguing that the Government should change its negotiating red lines and seek significant changes to the Political Declaration “to provide clarity on our future relationship and deliver a closer economic relationship with the EU.” In doing so, Labour has abandoned its 2017 manifesto commitment to Brexit in all but name.

So how does the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition envisage that “closer economic relationship with the EU”? In Corbyn’s view, the UK should enter into a “permanent and comprehensive” customs union with the EU that would include a “common external tariff” and “a UK say on future EU trade deals”. Of course, under such a scenario the UK would be denied the ability to negotiate its own trade deals and would essentially be beholden to EU trade policy without having a seat at the table. The notion that we would have “a say” on future trade deals once we’re no longer a member of the EU is for the birds.

Next up, Jezzer thinks we should maintain “close alignment” with the Single Market, and that this should be “underpinned by shared institutions”, which presumably includes adherence to the European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights. Essentially, we’d be signed up to all the regulations and judicial rulings emanating from Brussels without having any say in their formulation. Although there is no explicit reference to the subject of Freedom of Movement, presumably maintaining this “close alignment” with the Single Market would entail some kind of concession on that front as well.

So there we have it. Corbyn’s deal would essentially give away all UK influence in Brussels in return for the status quo in all but name. The United Kingdom would effectively be reduced to a satellite state of the European Union – a subjected nation with all the responsibilities of EU membership but none of its rights. Meanwhile, talk of support for a “People’s Vote” (a second referendum for those of us who don’t deal in BS) has been quietly dropped by the Labour leadership.

All this strikes me as rather odd. Who is it, exactly, that Corbyn is trying to please? Labour’s working-class heartlands voted for Brexit in their droves. Meanwhile, his hard-core supporter base of Labour Party Members and Corbynistas are zealous Remainers.

Corbyn’s Letter tells us two things. The first is that Corbyn is no leader. His commitment to ambiguity belies the fact that his party is split and he lacks the courage of his convictions to come down on the side of Leave (as would be consistent with his long-held Eurosceptic views on the back benches) or come out in support of Remain (which would satisfy his core supporters). The second is that the Labour Party’s Brexit fissures run just as deep as the Tories – if not deeper. In fact, they are potentially much more dangerous, because whereas the Tories’ divisions are essentially confined to the Parliamentary level (most Tory voters are also Leavers), the Labour Party is divided amongst its electorate.

The world of metropolitan Momentum campaigners in London is poles apart from the Labour voters of the Northern industrial towns and cities. If the rumours are true, Corbyn has already lost as much as 150,000 Labour Party members on the back of his Brexit ambivalence. He’s now doing his best to alienate traditional Labour voters who want to see an end to Freedom of Movement and everything else that would come with a clean break from the EU.

Corbyn now leads a Frankenstein’s monster of a party that is dangerously lop-sided. Given the seemingly endless procession of calamities to have plagued the May government, any Labour leader worth their salt should be at least fifteen points ahead in the polls by now, yet the Tories and Labour are neck and neck. The Corbyn surge has lost its momentum.


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