Myth – Jeremy Corbyn’s lacklustre attitude to backing Remain in the EU Referendum is to blame for the result.
Fact – It is true that Corbyn stated that his personal backing of the EU was 7 to 7.5 out of 10. It is also true that he is on record during his time in Parliament as being very much against the EU. In 1993 he voted against the Maastrict Treaty and said then of the EU,
“It takes away from national Parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers who will impose the economic policies of price stability, deflation and high unemployment throughout the European Community.”
However, what is not true is that he is against the idea of the EU, only the way it conducts its financial business. He has also been on record as saying that he would support the EU if it undergoes a major reform in order to support member states and their citizens rather than to, as he says above, have Europe ruled by bankers whose primary purpose is to make money for the already wealthy, to the detriment of the most vulnerable – rather like his views on the banking institutions in the UK.
“When the last referendum was held in 1975, Europe was divided by the Cold War, and what later became the EU was a much smaller, purely market-driven arrangement. Over the years I have been critical of many decisions taken by the EU, and I remain critical of its shortcomings; from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services.
So Europe needs to change. But that change can only come from working with our allies in the EU. It’s perfectly possible to be critical and still be convinced we need to remain a member.”
Corbyn views the EU as a necessary evil, and his argument is that to fight its worst parts, we have to be inside it to have that say in how it is run, rather than on the outside where we have no vote and no control.
“We believe the European Union has brought: investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment, and offers the best chance of meeting the challenges we face in the 21stcentury. Labour is convinced that a vote to remain is in the best interests of the people of this country.
In the coming century, we face huge challenges, as a people, as a continent and as a global community. How to deal with climate change. How to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes. How to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism. How to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation. How to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world, and how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire.
All these issues are serious and pressing, and self-evidently require international co-operation. Collective international action through the European Union is clearly going to be vital to meeting these challenges. Britain will be stronger if we co-operate with our neighbours in facing them together.
As Portugal’s new Socialist Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, has said: ‘in the face of all these crises around us. We must not divide Europe – we must strengthen it.’
Of his previous attitude to the EU, he says,
“In contrast to four decades ago, the EU of today brings together most of the countries of Europe and has developed important employment, environmental and consumer protections.
EU membership has guaranteed working people vital employment rights, including four weeks’ paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, protections for agency workers and health and safety in the workplace. Being in the EU has raised Britain’s environmental standards, from beaches to air quality, and protected consumers from rip-off charges.
But we also need to make the case for reform in Europe – the reform David Cameron’s Government has no interest in, but plenty of others across Europe do.
That means democratic reform to make the EU more accountable to its people. Economic reform to end to self-defeating austerity and put jobs and sustainable growth at the centre of European policy, labour market reform to strengthen and extend workers’ rights in a real social Europe. And new rights for governments and elected authorities to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.
So the case I’m making is for ‘Remain – and Reform’ in Europe.
When it came to the Remain campaign itself, there are varying accounts of the exact number of speeches and appearances Corbyn made, depending on whether you are counting personal appearances, speeches made to smaller groups, several speeches/appearance made in the same town or whether a TV appearance/newspaper interview constituted a campaign event – but what is absolutely certain is that he appeared and spoke at the following places, in support of the Remain campaign, and made 123 appearances via some form of media during this time:
• 10 EU rallies, with speeches and meetings in London, Bristol, Stroud, Newquay, Perranporth, Cardiff, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Liverpool, Runcorn, Manchester, Truro, Sheffield, Widnes, Doncaster, Rotherham, Hastings, Brighton, Dundee, Aberdeen and Birmingham.
• These included a meeting with student nurses in Birmingham, a factory in Runcorn, a clean beaches event in Truro and campaigning with activists in Scotland.
• Launched the Labour In bus and the Ad Van.
• A debate on Sky News with Faisal Islam, also talked about the EU on the Agenda and the Last Leg. Appeared on the Andrew Marr show twice and on Peston on Sunday.
• Written two op-eds, one in the Observer and another in The Mirror.
• Reached more than 10 million people on social media.
• Six statements to the House of Commons and 10 PMQs on the EU.
[source: JeremyForLabour website]
Additionally, Corbyn and Labour’s position on the EU was part of a much wider view amongst progressive politicians from across Europe. Following the experience of the democratically elected Syriza Government in Greece, many people on the Left were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the EU and its treatment of member states in debt to it. The former Finance Minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, spoke at many meetings and on programmes such as Newsnight and Question Time both before and during the Referendum campaign and although largely ignored by the media, the Another Europe Is Possible campaign, supported by Corbyn and McDonnell, was instrumental in changing the minds of many left-wing Labour supporters who had been planning to vote Leave – this therefore shows the strength that Corbyn and McDonnell’s campaign had in persuading many Leave voters to back Remain.
The question that needs to be asked at this point, is ‘where was Theresa May?’ then Home Secretary and who should have been taking a leading role in the debate. Compared to Jeremy’s 123 appearance, May made just 29 – but her media coverage could not have been more different.
[image source: AnotherAngryVoice]
Then, following the result, when the actual voter profiles were revealed, far from Labour and Corbyn’s Remain campaign being to blame for the Leave result, the percentage of Labour voters voting to Remain within the EU was 63%, whilst Tory voters lagged way behind at 43%! It is therefore true to say that if Theresa May and David Cameron had been as successful at gaining the support of their own voters for Remain, then Brexit would not be happening – so why is it now Corbyn’s fault?
As the Another Angry Voice blog said at the time,
“It’s absolutely extraordinary that the mainstream media have worked so tirelessly to cast by far the most trusted and widely reported Labour politician during the referendum debate as an abject failure, while simultaneously painting the desperately untrustworthy, brazenly self-serving and frankly lazy campaign by Theresa May as some kind of brilliant asset to her leadership ambitions.
The sad thing is that so many people actually lap up these kinds of ludicrously counter-factual propaganda narratives. As far as some people are concerned, reading some extremely biased anti-Corbyn hatchet job in the Guardian, or reading some warped Theresa May hagiography in the tabloid press is enough for them to uncritically rote learn what they’ve read, and adopt it as their own political opinion to be spewed out without even ever actually thinking about it for themselves.”