EXPLAINER: Jezza’s Brexit muddle is about party management, not stopping Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn has tied himself in knots as he tries to manage party divisions over a second referendum.


Jeremy Corbyn knows the vast majority of Labour members want to stay in the EU and support a second referendum. As a vocal critic of the EU and the EC for decades, he is completely out of step with his base.

But tonight he will tell Labour MPs he’a backing Yvette Cooper’s amendment to extend article 50 i order to ensure the UK can’t crash out without a deal. That is a small victory for Kier Starmer and the shadow cabinet’s Remain campaigners.

Corbyn will also tell his MPs tonight the party will put down and amendment that would require the government to adopt Labour’s Brexit deal – which includes membership of the customs union – as its negotiating position. It would instruct the Government to bring forward legislation, so in the unlikely event it passes, Theresa May will be forced to go to Brussels armed with Labour’s Brexit blueprint.

He will also make it clear the party will back a second vote – but only to stop ‘a damaging Tory Brexit’. In other words, he has stopped short of calling for a People’s Vote that would determine one and for all whether the British people would rather stay in the EU after all.

Nor is he backing the Kyle/Wilson amendment that would, if passed, approve May’s Brexit deal in exchange for putting that deal to the voters.

The truth is Corbyn is trying desperately to prevent further defections to the new Independent group of MPs, whose influence already far exceeds its numbers. This is not the Damascene conversion to blocking Brexit that most party members are hoping for. It has everything to do with party management and very little to do with stopping Brexit.

In his effort to appease remain MPs and members he has made it even less clear what Labour’s Brexit policy actually is. Voters will be even more confused about Labour’s Brexit position tonight than they were this morning.

Any Labour leader woke struggle to balance the competing demands of Remain members and the millions of Labour voters who back Brexit. But for someone who won the leadership by saying what he thinks and doing what he says, the political chicanery that characterises his Brexit position is painful to behold. Corbyn has tied himself up in more knots than a circus contortionist. The conviction politician has become the triangulator-in-chief.

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