So, has Corbyn seen the light at last on Brexit? Yes, according to columnist Polly Toynbee writing in The Guardian.
After his brilliant performance at Prime Minister’s Question Time this week, Ms Toynbee was moved to write: ‘The Labour leader finally grasps what leaving the EU really means: the greatest harm inflicted on the very people his party cares about the most.’
She wrote. ‘Brexit is the great national crisis of our times and yet the leaders of the opposition have sometimes seemed so muted it has driven remainers to tear their hair out in frustration.’
But all that changed this week, according to Ms Toynbee.
‘Jeremy Corbyn for the first time turned all guns on the prime minister over her incoherent, incomprehensible and impossible Brexit stance. He used all his questions, every one, to wallop her exactly where she and her party are most vulnerable – and not before time.’
Firing on all cylinders, Corbyn hit the Prime Minister with a ‘blistering salvo’:
“Seventeen months after the referendum they say there can be no hard border but haven’t worked out how. They say they’ll protect workers rights, then vote against it. They say they’ll protect environmental rights, then vote against it. They promise action on tax avoidance but vote against it time and time again.”
The Prime Minster, observed Ms Toynbee, offered only a lame response. “Let me tell him, I am optimistic about our future. I’m optimistic about the success we can make of Brexit … blah, blah, blah … building a Britain fit for the future …”
Corbyn gave punch after punch against Brexit. He said,
“The EU’s chief negotiator said this week that the UK financial sector will lose its current rights to trade with Europe. It seems as though neither EU negotiators nor the Government have any idea where this is going.”
More blah, blah, blah by the Prime Minister, then Corbyn jumped up with his left hook:
“In April, the Brexit Secretary was confident that the European Banking Authority would be staying in London; now he cannot even guarantee that banks will have a right to trade with Europe. Last week, the Government voted down Labour amendments to protect workers’ rights.
“The Foreign Secretary has described employment regulation as ‘backbreaking’, and has repeatedly promised to ‘scrap the social chapter’. Why will not the Prime Minister guarantee workers’ rights—or does she agree with the Foreign Secretary on these matters?”
Yet more blah, blah, blah by the Prime Minister.
Jeremy Corby hit back:
“The record is clear: this Government voted down our amendment to protect workers’ rights. The Environment Secretary said he wanted a ‘green Brexit’, but yet again Conservative MPs voted down Labour amendments to guarantee environmental protection.”
The Prime Minster, “I will take no lessons from the Labour Party, blah blah blah..”
Corbyn swung back:
“The right hon. Lady’s predecessor blocked EU-wide proposals for a public register of trusts; again, Conservative MPs voted down Labour amendments to deal with tax avoidance
“When it comes to Brexit, this Government are a shambles.”
And his knock-out punch:
“Is it not the truth that this Government have no energy, no agreed plan and no strategy to deliver a good Brexit for Britain?”
‘Where has Corbyn been?’ asked Ms Toynbee. On a long journey, apparently.
The Guardian columnist explained, ‘A lifetime of instinctive “capitalist club” Euroscepticism has been shed. Passionate distress over Brexit from his young supporters and his trade union allies has brought him round.
‘Besides, the facts have changed. His vague, abstract distaste for the EU has given way to facing the hard reality of what Brexit means: inflicting most harm on those he cares about most. If only those on the opposite benches were on the same reality-check journey.’
Mr Corbyn’s rhetoric has changed lately. On a visit to Shipley in West Yorkshire, he was asked how he would vote if there was another referendum now. It was a question that the Prime Minister and her Chancellor, Philip Hammond, refused to answer. But Mr Corbyn didn’t hesitate: he’d vote for Remain.
Said Mr Corbyn, “I voted remain because I thought the best option was to remain. I haven’t changed my mind.”
And he added, “We must make sure we obtain tariff-free access to the European markets and protection of all the rights and membership of agencies we have achieved through the European Union.”
Mr Corbyn warned, “The danger is, we will get to March 2019 with no deal, we fall out of the EU, we go on to World Trade Organisation rules, and there will be threats to a lot of jobs all across Britain. I think it is quite shocking.”
Is Ms Toynbee right when she asserted in her column, ‘He was, say some, hesitant on unfamiliar policy turf. But now he has found his feet, and his voice and confidence’?
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has challenged the Tory government to answer: what kind of country does Britain want to be, a European model country, or something else altogether?
According to Ms Toynbee, Theresa May doesn’t have a clue, but Jeremy Corbyn does.
She wrote, ‘The European model beckons as the enlightened, internationalist, progressive vision – the Europhobic model is a land of impoverished deregulation.’
This is now something that Labour understands. She explained, ‘There were obvious reasons for Labour’s reluctance to go full-tilt against Brexit.
‘Too many Labour MPs in leave seats had taken fright. But since the election, another picture has emerged: Labour lost votes in some leave seats but gained votes in other leave areas as electors lost faith in the government’s chaotic negotiations.’
Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, has led the way, ‘opposing every government misstep, aligning maximum opposition amendment by amendment.’
Concluded Ms Toynbee, ‘His leaders cannot but see that this is not just right, but politically essential. There is no other place for an opposition to be in this national trauma.
‘My hunch is that the harder Corbyn hits out over Brexit, the stronger Labour’s support will grow. And the word is, that’s what we shall hear from now on.’
If her analysis is correct, it means that Labour offers Britain the best chance to reverse Brexit. So long as they can get into power before Britain leaves the EU.
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