Gina Miller, the Emmeline Pankhurst of the Remainer movement, tweeted yesterday: YOUTH TO CORBYN: GET OFF THE FENCE ON BREXIT, OR ELSE! What struck me as so odd about this tweet is that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t on any fence on Brexit. I can’t say he was never on the fence on EU membership – he equivocated a lot during the actual EU referendum campaign itself (remember the “I give it a 7 out of 10” routine?). Yet since June 24th, 2016, Corbyn has been very, very clear on Brexit in terms of both his words and his actions. He wants Brexit to happen as soon as possible and he wants the most full-strength version of it available.
To repeat, Corbyn has been very, very clear on this. I would be the first one to call out Corbyn being half-arsed about something, and he’s done it many times since becoming Labour leader. Yet on this, he’s been utterly consistent. “The British people have made their decision. We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from European Union.” He said that the day after the result was in.
“The Single Market is dependent on membership of the EU,” he said recently, while making it clear a Labour government would not seek Single Market membership. This has been his consistent position since the vote to Leave. Throughout 2017, he was urging “caution” about the Single Market, reiterating his perception that being in it would hamper his programme.
To be fair, the Labour front bench has been absolutely all over the place on Brexit for the last year and a half; trying to figure out what Abbott, Thornbery or Starmer are actually trying to say about Brexit, Single Market and Customs Union membership has been intentionally impossible to follow. Yet Corbyn has always been crystal clear. He’s couched things in political speak at times, of course, but he’s never relented on his basic position that Britain needs to leave the European Union and not remain in either the Single Market or the Customs Union when Brexit occurs.
Added to all this is the fact that Corbyn has not only three-line whipped his MPs to vote for every piece of pro-Brexit legislation that has come before the house since the referendum (and carried through sackings when the whip has been defied), he has whipped his MPs to vote against any amendments which might soften Brexit in any way. He has very consistently used his position to stop any Brexit other than one of a kind favoured by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
I find the need for Remainers to constantly try and reframe Corbyn as one of them intriguing. I never stop hearing from pro-EU folk about how if only a Corbyn government could get elected, it would be job done. What makes this all the more baffling is that Corbyn was an open throated Eurosceptic in the Tony Benn mould for decades before the referendum. I’m going to say it again, Remainers, because it seems to not be getting through: Corbyn doesn’t like the EU. He never has. He’s not saying all that stuff about the Single Market being bad for a leftist programme because he’s trying to maintain a balancing act. He really, really means it. Corbyn is ideologically pro-Brexit.
If stopping Brexit is the be all and end all of your political existence, then stop supporting Corbyn now. Reverse take over the Lib Dems, start a new party, whatever, but at the very, very least, stop pretending Corbyn is on a mythical fence on this issue. If he became prime minister, he would see hard Brexit through to the end.