Is Jeremy Corbyn’s capitulation on Europe a sign of things to come?
We all know that Jeremy Corbyn is a eurosceptic at heart. He voted for Britain to leave the European Community in the 1975 referendum for precisely the same reason he remains sceptical of it now – Corbyn recognises that remote and anti-democratic institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg make it impossible for Britain to pursue her own sovereign policies.
Of course, in Corbyn’s case, the EU stands in the way of creating a true socialist state, a People’s State of Great Britain with levels of regulation, social legislation and economic protectionism that even Brussels rightly rejects. Corbyn’s euroscepticism is thus very different from a conservative or libertarian’s euroscepticism, but it still comes down to sovereignty at the end of the day – whether Britain should be free to pursue her own interests, or subordinate our national interest to the “greater good” of European unity and harmonisation.
Since the general election and the summer escalation of the Greek economic crisis, there has been an encouraging increase in left-wing euroscepticism, with prominent thinkers and voices finally starting to accept that the EU might not have the interests of all its individual member states at heart. It has been encouraging to watch these green shoots of euroscepticism grow on the Left, as more people came to realise that this anti-democratic anachronism from the 1950s is perhaps not the solution to the challenges of the twenty-first century.
But all of this welcome progress came to a screeching halt yesterday when Jeremy Corbyn announced an abject and humiliating climbdown in his eurosceptic stance, no doubt forced by self-entitled members of his restive shadow cabinet:
Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday vowed unequivocally that Labour will fight to keep Britain in the EU, arguing that he sees membership as a means of imposing tougher regulations and a new tax on the City of London.
Mr Corbyn’s promise that Britain’s opposition Labour party will campaign against “Brexit” will come as a relief to many business leaders who feared he might put himself at the head of a populist movement for Britain to quit the EU.
The veteran leftwing MP was elected Labour leader last week on a wave of support from party veterans and young idealists lured by his anti-austerity message and fiery socialist rhetoric.
But he now faces the challenge of winning round the 90 per cent of Labour MPs who did not back him in the leadership contest. Many of them worry he could reverse Labour’s pro-European policy: in a referendum in 1975 Mr Corbyn voted for Britain to leave the EU.
And so on a core issue as important to Britain as our future EU membership or independence, it seems that Corbyn is willing to throw principle under the bus in the name of political expediency – or survival.
Of course, the capitulation came dressed up as a principled stance – not only would Jeremy Corbyn campaign for Britain to remain within the EU regardless of the outcome of any negotiation, but he would also enthusiastically embrace the EU’s efforts to kill the City of London as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre with new regulations and taxes:
The tax — sometimes referred to as a “Robin Hood” tax — has long drawn the ire of the City. Banking associations say it would have a dangerous effect, clogging up markets and hurting the economy. Banks claim most costs will be passed on to investors and consumers.
The European Commission’s original impact assessment highlighted that the tax would wipe out or displace up to 90 per cent of derivatives transactions and hit the bloc’s economic output by almost 1.8 per cent over the long term.
This is all very depressing. Whatever happened to Jeremy Corbyn, the breath of fresh air, the antithesis of the career politician who was going to tell it like it is and stand up for the concerns of ordinary British people?
Well, apparently he was locked in a room with some of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s centrist heavies, and gently “persuaded” that it might be better for all concerned if only he toed the party line on this one. And that party line is, of course, that Britain should remain in the European Union come hell or high water. No matter what the result of David Cameron’s renegotiation and no matter what ruinous authoritarian policies Brussels may cook up in future, the Labour Party is determined that Britain remain a member of the club.
And you can be certain that this change of heart did not come from the 60% of Labour Party members and supporters who voted for Corbyn. If any of them do feel strongly about the EU, Corbyn’s well-known ambivalence certainly did not dissuade them from doing so. No, this U-turn is entirely the result of pressure from within Labour’s seething, resentful Westminster caucus, MPs who are instinctively and unthinkingly pro-European and demand the same mindless deference to Brussels from their leader.
Why? There can only be two reasons. Either most Labour MPs subscribe to the view that the United Kingdom is such a small, weak, insignificant and pitiful nation that the surrendering of our democracy is a small price to pay for the honour of clubbing together with countries like Spain and Greece, or they recognise the harm that the EU is inflicting on our democracy, but are so seduced by the perks of membership (a supranational layer of government where the political class can exercise and abuse power without real accountability) that they simply don’t care.
In reality, most Labour MPs probably believe a bit of both. Clearly, they all buy in to the declinist view of Britain as a weak and insignificant country, unable to do what every country outside Europe does and face the world independently. Clearly they are so intellectually uncurious that it never strikes them as odd that Canada, the US and Mexico managed to form a successful free trade area (NAFTA) without pooling sovereignty and creating undemocratic joint institutions. And clearly some of them are so wedded to the idea of enforced multiculturalism through unlimited immigration that they want to shut down any avenue by which the British people might have their democratic say on the matter.
There are lots of words you can use to describe the Labour Party’s fawning and uncritical “IN at all costs” attitude toward the European Union, but it is certainly not the “new politics” promised by Jeremy Corbyn.
And as Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party continues, it will be very interesting to observe where he chooses to make a stand in defence of his left-wing principles, and where else he is willing – or forced – to make concessions to the majority centrists of the parliamentary party.
But one thing is very clear: yesterday was a victory for those weak and fearful people who are so narrow-minded and frightened of the future that they petulantly exacted reassurance from Jeremy Corbyn that Britain will remain in the burning building of the EU forever, at any cost and regardless of the alternatives, even if it means we are all consumed by the flames.
Parliamentary Labour Party – 1, Jeremy Corbyn – 0.
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