Jeremy Corbyn must change stance on Brexit, claims Lord Kinnock

PUBLISHED: 14:06 12 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:06 12 May 2018

Neil Kinnock. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Neil Kinnock. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

2010 Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn will commit a "serious evasion of duty" if he does not change course and back the UK retaining key aspects of the single market after Brexit, the former Labour leader Lord Kinnock has claimed.

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In a strongly-worded attack, the peer signalled that Labour MPs should defy the party leader if he repeats instructions to abstain in parliamentary votes on Britain staying in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Lord Kinnock was one of 83 Labour peers who rebelled against Corbyn and backed an amendment to Brexit legislation in the upper house for the UK to remain in the EEA, a grouping which allows for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the European single market.

In a thinly-veiled swipe at Corbyn, Lord Kinnock said objections to EEA membership were based on “infantile leftist illusion”.

The ex-Labour leader said if the leader did not alter his stance he would condemn working people that Labour was supposed to support to the “rockslide” of hard Brexit.

With the pro-EEA amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill set to come back to the Commons, Lord Kinnock wrote in The Independent: “It would be a serious evasion of duty if Labour did not seize this chance to protect our country from the rockslide of ‘hard’ Brexit.

“By supporting continued EEA participation we can end the Prime Minister’s deference to the cliff-edge kamikaze squad and force her, or her successor, into the pragmatic patriotism of putting country before party.”

Lord Kinnock defended his refusal to abstain in the EEA vote, as Corbyn had wanted, saying: “I do not break the whip lightly.

“I respect our Labour leadership in the Lords and I value loyalty.

“But I have also said that the virtue, in excess, fills graveyards.

“In this case, not continuing in the EEA would mean endangering, sacrificing, thousands of skilled and decently paid jobs and, with them, the life chances of countless families and communities.”

Lord Kinnock, who led Labour between 1983 and 1992, added: “The objections to supporting EEA membership from some in the upper reaches of the Labour Party seem to centre on claims that it would either restrict a Labour government’s freedom of socialist action or that it would mean ignoring our supporters who voted to leave the EU, or both.

“The first of these claims is based on falsehood.

“The EEA is open to member states of the EU or the European Free Trade Association.

“Neither the EEA nor the EU are part of the socialist superstate of neocon delusion or of the global capitalist adventure playground of infantile leftist illusion.”

MORE: From the local elections to the House of Lords, the case for a Brexit rethink is inescapable says Andrew Adonis

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