TOM BRAKE: Why Corbyn must come clean over Brexit stance

Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Jeff Overs/PA Wire.

Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Jeff Overs/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Staying in the EU is the biggest political fight of our lifetimes. Voters deserve to know whose side Corbyn is on, says Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, TOM BRAKE.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Dominc Lipinski/PA Wire.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Dominc Lipinski/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

There's a reason why American political campaigns are obsessed with the 3am phone call question: What would a leader do if they were awoken in the middle of the night to a national emergency? It's because in moments such as those that true leadership is tested. A leader's beliefs are fundamental to shaping their reactions. We want to know how our leaders think and be reassured they're up to the task.

This same need is the reason why Jeremy Corbyn's pretence that he would be 'neutral' in a Brexit referendum has elicited such incredulity. On the most significant issue of our lifetime, one which will affect the future of this country for generations and permanently affect the economic and geopolitical trajectory of the UK, apparently Corbyn hasn't made up his mind.

It's been three-and-a-half years since the referendum and we've seen every thread of the Leave vote argument gradually unravel: Our economy shrink; an exodus of European workers vital to the NHS and other public services; business investment disappear; our standing on the world stage diminished.

Brexit has already cost the economy more than £1 billion a week, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. They estimate the UK's GDP is £55bn-£66bn lower than it would have been without Brexit.

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From Tesla to Nissan, major companies are already moving jobs overseas or choosing not to invest in the UK, meaning fewer highly skilled jobs in the areas that need it most.

And yet, in the face of all this evidence, Corbyn still won't tell us where he stands.

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But it's his actions that speak louder than his words. This is a man who spent decades of his political career campaigning to leave the EU, who was missing in action during the 2016 referendum campaign and who called for Article 50 to be triggered the morning after the result. The Labour leadership has also repeatedly instructed their MPs to sit on their hands to help Brexit through. In the last parliament, there were 31 key Brexit votes on which the Labour whip was either to abstain or to vote with the Conservative government.

Corbyn pretends that his neutral stance comes from a desire to be an "honest broker" and let the public decide. But there is nothing honest about failing to come clean about his position. The public will rightly see this as yet another cynical attempt to appeal to both sides of the Brexit divide, instead of standing up for the interests of the country.

Brexit isn't a political game. It's a very real threat to our livelihoods, opportunities for young people and the future of our Union. If we do succeed in securing a People's Vote, you can be sure that the likes of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump will not shy away from making their positions known. The Lib Dems will be united in taking them on and making the case for why Britain has a brighter future inside the EU. But make no mistake, securing Britain's place in Europe will be a historic battle. If Corbyn wants to retain any credibility, voters are entitled to know on whose side he will be fighting.

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