November 6, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith
The reason why people don’t understand Labour’s Brexit position is because…it’s difficult to understand.
Jeremy Corbyn himself says it ‘really isn’t complicated’. Meanwhile, Corbyn’s media outriders, the likes of Owen Jones and Matt Zarb-Cousin, are suggesting that anyone who is saying they don’t understand Labour’s Brexit strategy are only pretending not to. I want to suggest that they are being deliberately obtuse when they suggest those who don’t understand Labour’s Brexit strategy are being deliberately obtuse. Here’s why:
Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the a Labour Party because he had never taken a centrist position on any issue. It was his certainty, and to a some extent his courage, in taking a position and sticking with it, that attracted so many to his candidacy. Yet Corbyn has chosen to take a centrist position on Brexit. Brexit is the only issue on which there IS no centre.
Labour’s actual policy is this: They will go to Brussels and negotiate a better Brexit deal. They will then call a referendum on that Brexit Deal with an option to Remain.
Where do I start?
1) The ‘better deal’ bit I kind of get. Boris Johnson effectively got his deal done with the EU in a week. Corbyn is arguing for a softer Brexit, in which workers rights, environmental standards and social protections are preserved and the UK enters into a customs union. This, roughly translated, means that the EU will be setting the minimums for the first three and ‘a’ customs union is very likely to be ‘the’ EU Customs Union. Given the EU gave Boris the deal he got, they are not going to say no to the UK coming back with significant concessions. So the deal will most probably be done with the EU.
2) Right, fine. All makes sense. Then Labour might campaign against their own deal in a referendum…..
3) Seriously, they really might.
4) I’m actually not joking.
5) Granted, in Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘easy to understand’ Brexit position he claims that ‘the members’ will tell him how he should campaign, and therefore he might campaign for the deal. The reality is that time and time again when Labour members are allowed a vote they vote to Remain in the EU.
So Jeremy Corbyn will have to campaign to Remain in the EU (which he doesn’t believe in) instead of the Deal with the EU (which he will have negotiated). If you think his performance in the 2016 EU referendum reminded you of a Dad whose just been told he’s going to be forced to dance to Gangnam Style in front of his daughter’s school, you wait until you see him campaign against a deal he negotiated.
6) There’s more.
7) What, pray, happens to the millions of voters who would be completely disenfranchised by a Referendum between a soft Brexit deal that basically keeps the UK subject to a number of EU regulations that it cannot influence any more and unable to make its own trade deals and Remaining in the EU?
They don’t even have to be No Deal supporters to be in that group, they just have to believe things like Brexit means the UK can make its own trade deals, Brexit means the UK can set its own tariffs and Brexit means the UK can set its own employment and environmental regulations.
Those people will almost certainly boycott the referendum and nothing gets solved at all by Labour’s Brexit policy.
I get it. I get the idea that since there are members of the Labour movement who believe in Remain and there are members of the Labour movement who believe in Leave the Labour Party feels it shouldn’t turn its back on either. In 2017 that worked. But now the Brexit Party have shown up and the Lib Dems are resurgent so straddling both sets of voters might mean they please and get no voters.
But whatever happens, don’t tell me that Labour’s Brexit policy is easy to understand. It’s not.