Almost everyone knows that Jeremy Corbyn has equivocated – or contradicted himself – on the European Union and Brexit. During the election campaign, understandably, he equivocated even more. The Labour Party itself is in two minds. And was the Labour Party before Corbyn's rise to the top. Indeed it was only under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's leadership that any equivocation on this issue was effectively disallowed.
Not surprisingly, then, Corbyn has sacked three frontbenchers over this very subject. Another MP resigned because of the Brexit amendment. In terms of names, Corbyn sacked shadow housing ministers Ruth Cadbury and Andy Slaughter. After the vote, shadow Foreign Office minister Catherine West was also given the boot.
He may have sacked only two MPs; though another 49 Labour MPs refused Corbyn's orders to abstain on an amendment which was tabled by Europhile Chuka Umunna. Six of the 49 are also in Corbyn's shadow cabinet.
Umunna had previously asked the British people “to get real” and stay in the single market and customs union after Brexit. No doubt Umunna (basically, a child of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) must see his position as the middle-ground.
Corbyn's Socialist Position on the EU
To state the bleeding obvious: as an old-style socialist, Corbyn is against the EU. Again as a socialist, he sees it as a “capitalist club” which is “run on behalf of employers” and “an unelected set of bankers”. The EU would be fine, for Corbyn, if it were, say, a union of socialist republics or even a single socialist republic with “open borders”.
However, since he is a member of a political party made up of many Europhiles, Corbyn has always been in a quandary. As I said, that quandary deepened when he became leader of the Labour Party. It deepened even more in the recent election campaign.
Let's put it simply. Even some Corbynites are also hardcore Europhiles. It's simply the case that they see the EU in terms radically at odds with Corbyn's own position.
Jeremy Corbyn's words on the European Union:
“[If] Greece leaves both the eurozone and the EU its future would be uncertain, but at least it could be its own. … There is no future for a usurious Europe that turns its smaller nations into colonies of debt peonage.” - June 2015
“Public opposition to the EU’s TTIP treaty is a cri de coeur for democracy and for the right of people to elect a Government who can decide what goes on in their country.” - January 2015
“Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, has no problems integrating rail services with Germany, France and Italy, and I do not think that any other country should have any problems either. What we have is the worst of all worlds.” - April 2013
“It is morally wrong [to] pay farmers to over-produce… then use taxpayers’ money to buy the over-production, so it is already a double purchase, and it is then shipped at enormous public cost across the seas to be dumped as maize on African societies. … The practice is simply crazy and must be stopped.” - May 2005
“I am sure that [Labour MPs] will vote against the Maastricht treaty again tonight, primarily because it takes away from national Parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers” - May 1993
“[W]e are moving towards a common European defence and foreign policy. That being so, one must ask who proposes it, who controls it and what it is for? … Title V states that the objective of such a policy shall be 'to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests and independence of the Union'. What exactly does that mean?” - March 1993