Corbyn doubles down on a hard Brexit

While I was on my festive blogging hiatus/battle with Australian Flu, I did manage to catch the article in the Guardian about the opinions of UK political party members.

One of the striking things in the article, other than the fact that it confirms that the Tories are slightly to the right of Emperor Palpatine, was just how open to remaining in the EU Single Market the majority of Labour members are.

These poll results were why I was quite excited when I learned that the SNP would be hosting a summit with the Greens and Lib-Dems in order to discuss how the UK could achieve a soft-Brexit. Labour were also invited, and if Labour were to attend in line with the feelings of their party membership, then there would have been quite a strong, organised presence in Parliament in favour of a soft-Brexit that could have staved off the worst outcomes of Brexit.

I was wrong to be optimistic as, true to form, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn refused to countenance being part of the summit.

He said in reply to the invitation.

Your proposed summit appears to be based on the flawed assumption that the single market is a membership club – it is not.

We have consistently said that we are committed to negotiating to keep the benefits of the single market and securing the best possible deal for the whole of Britain, which protects our economy and the people of this country, whilst at the same time respecting the result of the referendum

Now, at this juncture, it is important to consider what the SNP, the Greens and the Lib-Dems want to achieve.

They essentially want a soft-Brexit. They want to remain part of the European Economic Area and they want to abide by Europe’s four freedoms, of movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders. They also want to consider remaining part of the Custom’s Union.

We know this is doable outwith the EU because there are countries already doing it.

In essence, what those behind the summit want is to form an alliance around the only practical way to keep the benefits of the Single-Market.

What Corbyn is hinting at is trying to negotiate a deal which keeps the good parts of the Single Market but not the ones the Brexiteers wanted to ditch. Or to put more simply, Corbyn thinks he can engineer free movement of goods and services but also have bespoke immigration controls. He is trying to please both sides of the debate which in itself isn’t a bad thing.

Problem with that is, we have been told time and time again by the EU that this is not an option. The Corbyn stance will fail and persuing it will most likely result in a hard Brexit.

This proposed summit offered a chance to put real pressure on the UK government and force a soft-Brexit but Corbyn has scuppered that in favour of a strategy that could be very damaging for the UK.

The real reason for this is that Corbyn’s plan is to sit on the fence for as long as possible in the hope that the government collapses and he is able to pick up the pieces. If he took a principled stance, either way, he worries that he will alienate half of the population.

The flaw with his current position, besides the fact it’s unworkable, is that while he may not be alienating anyone he is not appealing to anyone either.

As a consequence, he is appearing weak and his party looks rudderless and divided. The longer he fails to take a cogent principled stance the more his reputation as a leader will be damaged. This is a problem because he failed to win the last General Election despite it being fought against a Tory party that was in complete disarray.

The SNP, the Lib-Dems and the Greens just gave Corbyn an opportunity to lead the UK to a soft Brexit but he failed to rise to the occasion. He also failed to do what the majority of his own party members want him to do. If he is not careful he may well come to be seen by many to be just as culpable than the Tories for the slowly unfolding disaster that is Brexit.

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