Labour continues to lurch towards disaster with Brexit positioning

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA/David Mirzoeff

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA/David Mirzoeff - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Former Labour MEP Mary Honeyball warns that Corbyn is leading her party – and Britain – on to the rocks.

Brexit has been Jeremy Corbyn's project as much as Theresa May's or Boris Johnson's. To this day he is still wittering about a Labour Brexit - Lexit - which he thinks puts jobs first and protects workers' rights.

Brexit is Brexit. The British people and British workers will lose out whoever does the deed. The Brexit on offer is a right-wing, small-state project which will benefit only a very few privileged individuals.

The hard-left dream of socialism in one country has always been so much pie in the sky. In the age of globalisation it is an impossibility.

Labour's position on Brexit matters because it is the official opposition and the second largest party in the House of Commons. Although the rebel alliance in parliament is attracting more support, it is still within Corbyn's power to facilitate Brexit.

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At the present critical stage of the Brexit saga Corbyn still wants a general election over and above a referendum. Even taking account of electoral volatility, Labour would probably lose such a contest, thereby paving the way for Johnson to deliver a hard Brexit.

We should never forget that Theresa May's deal would have gone through the House of Commons if she had had a working majority.

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A referendum, on the other hand, is increasingly likely to come down on the side of Remain. An average of recent surveys produced by You Gov shows 53-47% preference for Remain. Few general elections produce bigger swings.

The blindingly obvious conclusion is that Corbyn wants to leave the EU. Once a Brexiter, always a Brexiter. Corbyn has failed to properly engage with Brexit, preferring to talk about abolishing private schools and introducing a four-day week. Brexit is the existential issue of our time. Labour needs to have a clear and credible Brexit policy. Sadly this is not the case at present.

Corbyn's behaviour during and since the 2016 referendum has been that of a Brexiter. He has over the past few weeks sought to prevent the setting up of any kind of emergency government.

It has, moreover, been impossible to persuade Corbyn to give up his long held anti-EU views even when he is wrong, as in the case of the EU state aid rules. These rules will not prevent a future Labour government undertaking nationalisation, but Corbyn still believes they will.

The Labour leader continues on his Brexit path even though the overwhelming majority of party members support Remain. There was a time when a younger Jeremy Corbyn believed in internal democracy in the Labour Party. Now he is in charge he has gone the way of all those previous Labour leaders he used to condemn out of hand.

As if this were not enough, Corbyn is risking the Labour Party itself. The party lost more than half a million pounds last year due to a dip in membership plus taking on extra staff for a general election. Meanwhile, hard-working sitting MPs are facing deselection and Corbyn acolytes seek to control the selection of parliamentary candidates. In an unprecedented move, shadow minister Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sent to London to vet constituency shortlists. The idea once cherished by Corbyn that local Labour parties select their own candidates appears to be dead in the water.

Never cut out to be a leader, Corbyn is unable to be anything other than a hard left activist who entered parliament to make unreasonable demands on his own party's leadership in the tradition of Leon Trotsky. Remain supporters deserve better. It would be an unbelievable tragedy if Remain was thwarted by an ageing hard-leftist who is unable to come to terms with the present.

Mary Honeyball was a Labour MEP from 2000 to 2019

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