Corbyn has played the Brexit debate brilliantly

When Brexit narrowly passed, the neoliberal Blairites in the UK Labour Party were horrified. They demanded Jeremy Corbyn, whom they despise, immediately oppose the referendum that so many UK Labour members voted for. When he refused, the Labour Party divided.

Suddenly, on 24 June last year, the Tories snapped together, united (apart from Kenneth Clarke) behind Brexit.

At the same time, Labour split. Jeremy Corbyn was on TV at 7.30am saying: “We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now.” Many in his party were horrified. They reacted viscerally rather than rationally, and launched a doomed challenge to his leadership behind a candidate, Owen Smith, who advocated a second referendum.

The Tories charged ahead, united behind Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit, while the Blairites worked overtime to undermine Corbyn's leadership. Corbyn remained silent on Brexit, and instead allowed the issue to "come to him". While a majority of Labour lawmakers oppose Brexit, much of the party’s heartlands voted for it. If Corbyn did what the Blairites wanted him to do, it would have caused a split in the membership and might have completely gutted the party.

By not doing what the neoliberal Blairites demanded and tried to undermine Brexit, the Tories would be unable to blame their Brexit failures on Labour.
As Napoleon once said, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
And boy, did the Tories screw this one up.

The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union has torn apart Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives, ruptured her government and triggered dire warnings from executives and central bankers.

If that wasn't bad enough for the Tories, it got much, much worse today.

May told EU leaders that she wouldn’t back down and demanded they show her country “respect” in talks. Rather than giving her a boost, a summit of EU leaders failed to mark any progress, particularly on the sticky issue of what do to about the Irish border. Instead, it led to humiliating newspaper headlines in Britain on Friday as May was told to come up with fresh ideas.
...EU officials dismissed the speech as posturing and vowed to persevere toward a deal.

The meeting in Austria was supposed to bolster May’s reputation. Instead, leaders told her to re-work her plans, and set her a deadline of next month to come back with something else.

May and the Tories are in an impossible position. They've promised something they can't possibly deliver. So when that failure becomes inescapable, there will be hell to pay.

“It looks bad because no one has the faintest idea what Labour think about the biggest issue of the day, but it actually seems to mean that he manages to get support from both sides without alienating people. Whether it works for much longer is a different question. There comes a point when you can’t dance around it anymore.”
-Anthony Wells, pollster YouGov’s director of political and social research

Corbyn, on the other hand, has promised nothing regarding Brexit.
Instead, he's focused on increasingly popular policies that Labour can actually deliver.

Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to put up taxes to fund an increase in spending for public services has received a boost after research showed that 60% of people thought the government should do just that.

The British Social Attitudes survey found that the proportion of people who believed the government should raise taxes to fund more public spending was at its highest in 15 years, following almost a decade of austerity.
...Over half of Tory voters (53%) thought the government should pursue the policy. The last time more than half backed such a move was in 2002, when support among the whole population for public spending was at an all-time high.

Even Tory voters are getting behind Corbyn's domestic policies.
This explains why UK Labour approval ratings have gone up despite an entire summer of antisemitic smears by the right-wing media.
In fact, it's even worse than that for Tory leadership. Because Brexit is consuming everything in the May government, Corbyn and Labour are virtually unopposed when it comes to talking about domestic problems.

Dealing with Brexit is obviously the most pressing task facing Theresa May’s government. But it remains a matter of grave concern that the UK prime minister has virtually no time for anything else, including the few ideas that the previous Conservative government introduced, such as devolving powers and responsibilities to the urban regions. The Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine schemes now receive almost no attention.

Meanwhile, the whole Brexit debate is coming around to Labour by it's own gravity.
Rather than fighting against the popular mandate and the wishes of a huge part of Labour's base, as the Blairites demanded, Corbyn is sitting back and letting the Brexit political situation become more clear and easier to manage.

Instead of being divided, labour union members are now overwhelmingly on the pro-second referendum side.

Union members think standards of living will deteriorate as a result of Brexit by a margin of around four to one.
...Despite claims that workers are overwhelmingly against immigration, members of all three unions want to prioritise trade over controlling immigration

Like labour union members, the general public is changing its mind on Brexit as well.

More than 2.6 million voters have abandoned their previous support for Brexit and now support remaining in the EU, according to new polling.
When offset by the 970,000 people that have switched their support from Remain to Leave, that would mean a net total of 1.6 million more voters now support remaining in the EU compared to the 2016 vote.

Brexit won by 1.3 million votes, which means a new referendum would be too close to call.
Another survey said that Labour could pick up a million voters by backing another referendum. That may or may not be true. I'm skeptical.
What is more definitive is that the Labour base is becoming more anti-Brexit.
After the Tories finish their Brexit failure, and the May government completely implodes, the Corbyn government will then have a free hand to revisit Brexit in whatever way that the Labour base demands.

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Crash Out Brexit Virtually Guaranteed as EU Leaders Talk Tough to Theresa May, Reject Chequers Plan, and Give Her October Deadline

But May has no one to blame but herself. She’s refused to listen to clear and consistent messages from EU leaders, from Angela Merkel on down, from the very morning after the Brexit vote. The UK has faffed around, sent in at best napkin-doodle-level schemes and even then, extremely late in the game, and expected the EU to accept them. This have been extreme form Dunning Kruger syndrome,The EU has lost patience with the strategy of trying to avoid making May look bad to try to prevent Tory Ultras from taking over the Government. That has proved to be exceptionally hard given her incompetence. And as a Financial Times reader pointed out:

Stephen T
There is something seriously wrong when a British Prime Minister can go to an EU Council meeting and be surprised about anything. Either she has cloth ears and is not listening to the people around her or the people around her are doing a really bad job of intelligence gathering on the lay of the land. I suspect Mrs May is discovering very late in the day that negotiating a mult-lateral deal involves a bit more than painting herself-in with a lot of red lines and then just “being a difficult woman”. She now has 4 weeks in which to show remarkable agility or be crushed under the weight of a botched Brexit of her own making. And human decency dictates that she should allow the British people to decide if they want to be crushed with her.

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are UK "leaders" more clueless than US?

Chequers, as the journalist Chris Deerin has pointed out, goes pop. Which wry and funny as it is for those of us of a certain age will not be cheering up Theresa May. Because the EU summit in Salzburg has been a personal catastrophe for her. And worse than that, it was an avoidable catastrophe. Because every EU expert bar those she employs in Whitehall has been saying very loudly for weeks that the trade and commercial proposal in her Chequers Brexit plan would never win favour among the EU 27.

So the question is why she waited to have that so publicly and humiliatingly stated by the EU’s president Donald Tusk today, rather than quietly acquiring some wriggle room over recent days. She’s also rejected the EU’s proposal to keep the Northern Ireland border with the Republic open – because, in her estimation, it would undermine the integrity of the UK – but won’t tell them what her revised proposal may be, though she insists she has one.

Neither she nor EU leaders want a hard no-deal Brexit. But probably the only way for her to avoid it is to eat the humblest of humble pies and jog back to the deal her departed Brexit secretary, David Davis, naively thought he had been mandated to negotiate – a more conventional free trade agreement based on Canada’s deal with the UK.

Chequers goes pop: Theresa May’s Salzburg catastrophe

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

Brexit/anti Brexit question.

The question has been framed badly, and in the interests of the propertariat.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Thank you for another wonderful essay.

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lotlizard's picture

I don’t know what a better metaphor would be, though — Dunkirk? Gallipoli? The Charge of the Light Brigade?

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Hawkfish's picture


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We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.
- Greta Thunberg

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lotlizard's picture

—The Steve Miller Marvolo Riddle Band

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