The problem with Corbyn’s Brexit plan
Yesterday we asked, will Corbyn listen to his own party on Brexit?
Today we learned that the answer to that question is, not really.
Don’t get me wrong, Corbyn’s post-Brexit vision is far more appealing to me than Theresa May’s.
Corbyn’s speech was a wish list of things I would love to see coming to fruition.
He wants to nationalise public services, retain regulations that protect workers, stay aligned to many EU agencies, welcome foreign workers and refugees, invest in skills and infrastructure, protect the Good Friday Agreement and ensure that the powers that should automatically repatriate to the devolved government’s actually do so.
The problem isn’t Corbyn’s vision of post-Brexit Britain, the problem is how he plans to achieve it.
In this speech today, none of our previous criticisms of his Brexit stance have been answered. His strategy still has the same fundamental flaw as the one being peddled by the Tories. In that sense, it doesn’t matter that he might have a more palatable vision. A bad policy will lead to a no-deal scenario, which will be equally bad regardless of the aspirations held by the party that happens to be doing the negotiations.
Corbyn still wants to cherry-pick the parts of being in the EU he likes.
This was highlighted a couple of times in his speech. For instance, he talked about how full Single Market membership would be unacceptable to him as it would prevent him from re-nationalising public services and redistributing wealth.(A questionable statement, given the number of EU countries with more nationally owned public services and more equal wealth distribution than the UK).
Yet, he also wants a special deal that keeps many of the good aspects of the EU and ditches the bits he sees as bad. He wants to cherrypick while still demanding influence over the EU that no country outwith it has been granted.
A new customs arrangement would depend on Britain being able to negotiate agreement of new trade deals in our national interest.
Labour would not countenance a deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others. That would mean ending up as mere rule takers.
Also, although Corbyn’s rhetoric on immigration today was inclusive, he is clearly against the free movement of people that the EU will want him to accept in exchange for a favourable trade deal.
The success of this strategy relies on the negotiating position of the EU collapsing.
In fact, it’s worse than that. The strategy relies on the EU abandoning the fundamental principles that it has been built on. It relies on the EU embarking on a course that will incentivise other countries to break away from it. It relies on the EU not realising, or not caring, that it will come to the table holding most of the good cards.
In that sense, Corbyn, like the Tories, has overestimated the strength of his hand. You can see this delusion by his repetition of the Boris NHS bus lie.
And we will use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.
There won’t be any funds returned from Brussels.
It doesn’t work like that. The money we paid to the EU was an investment that repaid itself many times over. That’s why there have been multiple reports concluding that every form of Brexit is going to cause a big reduction in UK GDP. You can’t give money we used to send to Brussels to the NHS when that money is dwarfed by the reduction of tax collected after we Brexit.
Many of the same reports show how the UK will be hurt more by Brexit than the EU will be. Which gets to the heart of the problem. It may be possible to make an organisation forget its key principles but it is hard to do so when they have a lot less to lose than you if they don’t.
In the unlikely event that Corbyn found himself in the position to negotiate Brexit. If his vision was somehow delivered then he may be able to implement his program of government. However, most likely, Corbyn’s aspiration will be halted by the EU reiterating their anti-cherrypicking ideology. In that scenario, Corbyn will need to either soften his stance or accept a hard-Brexit in which his grand schemes are going to be grossly underfunded.