Stop kidding yourself. Jeremy Corbyn no more wants the single market than he wants to stop Brexit

PUBLISHED: 00:01 07 June 2018

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the annual conference of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) Photo: PA / Andrew Matthews

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The Labour leader's moves on the Lords amendments show he has no interest in halting Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn attracted positive reviews for his prime minister’s questions performance yesterday, although it is telling that, against an opponent as unthinking on her feet as Theresa May it is considered a triumph if he takes to his despatch box and his trousers don’t fall down.

“Very witty performance from Jeremy Corbyn at #PMQs, and hammered the government over Brexit,” tweeted Guardian journalist and WhatsApp enthusiast Owen Jones. That wit? “When it comes to Brexit, this government has delivered more delays and cancellations than Northern Rail.” It’s not exactly Bill Hicks, is it? It’s a set-up/punchline structure Tommy Trinder would have been familiar with (ask your great-grandparents, kids).

But Edinburgh reviews aside, it doesn’t matter. Because what matters is the rewording Mr Corbyn’s party has sought on the House of Lords amendment to the EU withdrawal bill coming back to the Commons next week calling for the UK to join the European Economic Area. Because that act shows that, “hammering” the hapless Mrs May at adults’ playtime is meaningless when they both want the same thing. Out of the single market, and the hardest of Brexits.

If Mr Corbyn and his team really wanted single market access and the “softest of soft Brexits” his media team have been briefing over the past couple of days, there would have been a relatively easy way. Whipping his MPs to support the Lords amendment on the EEA and sign up for the so-called “Norway model”. That’s what he would do if was serious, as he claims to be, about protecting full access to the EU’s internal market and retaining protection for workers, consumers and the environment. But he’s not.

In seeking to reword the amendment, the Labour leadership knows that it is significantly – and probably fatally – undermining any pro-single market amendment being passed when it reaches the Commons on Tuesday. It will peel Labour MPs away from the EEA amendment while failing to gain the cross-party support any successful defeat of the government needs. With less than a handful of notable exceptions, Conservative MPs will not vote to pass an amendment made by the Labour leadership.

Mr Corbyn is no Remainer. Writing this, I have next to me a cutting of The Times from November 1991, a reminder of how he lined up alongside the likes of Norman Tebbit and Bill Cash in opposing the Maastricht Treaty. He has always opposed the notion of European integration and unity, variously decried as a rich bankers’ cartel and a roadblock to socialism in one country. You just can’t sing that to a White Stripes riff.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want to Remain. He doesn’t even want the single market. He wants a Hard Brexit and the economic collapse which will follow it. You know the Sunday Times story from the weekend about Dover grinding to a halt in 24 hours and Scotland and Cornwall needing RAF food drops? That will be popcorn for John McDonnell, who lists his hobby in Who’s Who as "generally fermenting [sic] the overthrow of capitalism". The economic crisis will beget a political one, and an election the Labour leadership would think themselves in a good place to win.

So stop kidding yourselves now. Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going to stop Brexit. He isn’t even going to soften it. He’s a Brexiteer and his actions of the past couple of days have proved it. And no amount of PMQs zingers is going to change that.

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