Corbyn's Brexit stance risks no-deal catastrophe '“ leader comment

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn needs to choose between Theresa May's EU divorce plan or scrapping Brexit to avoid '˜utter madness' of a no-deal exit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn needs to make his position on Brexit crystal clear and choose between the three realistic options that remain (Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum, Jeremy Corbyn faced claims that he had let down the Remain campaign with a lacklustre performance. David Cameron, who would soon quit Downing Street, told the Labour leader that he should “reflect on” his performance, adding: “He said he put his back into it, I would hate to see him when he wasn’t trying.”

Such sniping from another party is to be expected, but a former Labour Cabinet Minister, Chris Bryant, went even further. “I suspect that Jeremy may have voted to leave,” he said.

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Two years later and – astonishingly – it is still unclear where exactly Corbyn stands even as the UK faces one of three choices: Theresa May’s deal, a no-deal Brexit, or remaining in the European Union.

Labour has pledged to vote against May’s plan and, in a recent interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Corbyn said it was not possible to cancel Brexit. “We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognise the reasons why people voted Leave,” he said.

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This means there is one realistic option left – a no-deal Brexit – and an entirely unrealistic one, the deluded fantasy espoused by hardline Brexiteers that it is still possible for the UK to negotiate a significantly better divorce from the EU.

The UK started the clock ticking when it triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The negotiation period can be extended, but only with the unanimous agreement of all EU states. They aren’t going to grant an extension to facilitate a deal that’s better for Britain and worse for the EU.

Another former Labour Cabinet Minister, Ed Balls, has now expressed frustration with Corbyn. “The complication for all of us is we don’t quite know which camp Jeremy Corbyn is in, and he’s the leader of the Labour Party,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. Any serious politician with the national interest at heart needs to recognise that a no-deal Brexit is, as Brian Wilson writes in his Scotsman column today, “utter madness”.

Corbyn, therefore, must choose between backing May’s deal – an understandably difficult thing for him to do – or taking steps to stop Brexit. He should then make an unequivocal statement to that effect and rally as many Labour supporters to that cause as he can. If he does not, the suspicion that he is, and was, a hardline Brexiteer will grow.