Jeremy Corbyn’s views on Brexit: a long held stance on Europe

Jeremy Corbyn - photo from Chatham House CC BY-NC-ND 2 0
Photo courtesy of Chatham House under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is both praised and criticised for one of his defining political characteristics: sticking decade after decade to the same political views.

Some people see that as an attribute – sticking with your principles – and others as a flaw – being stuck in the past. Either way, it’s clearly a large part of his political personality.

It’s also the way to understanding his views on Brexit, as those too follow a long-run and consistent approach. He is, in short, a life-long Eurosceptic:

  • Jeremy Corbyn voted for Britain to leave the European Economic Community (EEC) in the 1975 European referendum.
  • Jeremy Corbyn opposed the creation of the European Union (EU) under the Maastricht Treaty – speaking and voting against it in Parliament in 1993. During the 2016 referendum campaign, Left Leave highlighted repeated speeches he made in Parliament opposing Europe during 1993.
  • Jeremy Corbyn voted against the Lisbon Treaty on more than one occasion in Parliament in 2008.
  • In 2010, Jeremy Corbyn voted against the creation of the European Union’s diplomatic service.
  • Jeremy Corbyn voted for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in 2011 (breaking the Labour whip to do so).
  • In 2011 Jeremy Corbyn also opposed the creation of the EU’s European Stability Mechanism, which helps members of the Euro in financial difficulties. (This vote is a good example of how Corbyn votes with hardcore Euro-sceptics. Only 26 other MPs joined him in voting against, and in their number are the likes of right-wing Euro-sceptics such as Peter Bone, Douglas Carswell, Bill Cash, Ian Paisley Junior and John Redwood.)
  • Jeremy Corbyn opposed Britain’s participation in the EU’s Banking Authority in 2012.
  • In 2016 his long-time left-wing ally Tariq Ali said that he was sure that if Corbyn was not Labour leader he would be campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, whilst his brother Piers Corbyn also said that Jeremy Corbyn was privately opposed to Britain’s membership of the European Union.
  • Jeremy Corbyn went on holiday during the 2016 referendum campaign and his office staff consistently undermined the Remain campaign. He refused to attend a key Remain campaign launch and also attacked government ministers for publicising the Remain case, saying they should also have promoted arguments in favour of Leave vote. The Director of the Remain campaign, himself a Labour member and candidate, said, “Rather than making a clear and passionate Labour case for EU membership, Corbyn took a week’s holiday in the middle of the campaign and removed pro-EU lines from his speeches”. During the referendum campaign, Leave.EU highlighted Corbyn’s attacks on Europe made in 1996.
  • The day after the European referendum in 2016, Jeremy Corbyn called for the immediate invocation of Article 50 – the two-year notice to leave the EU – much quicker than even Theresa May wanted.
  • In December 2016, Jeremy Corbyn voted in Parliament in favour of the UK leaving the EU and for the process to start no later than 31 March 2017.
  • Jeremy Corbyn three times voted in February 2017 in favour of the Prime Minister starting the process of leaving the European Union.
  • During the 2017 general election, the independent Channel 4 Factcheck service found very little difference between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May over Europe.
  • In the summer of 2017, Jeremy Corbyn opposed Britain remaining in the Single Market. He even sacked from his team Labour MPs who voted in favour of membership of the Single Market.
  • In 2018, Jeremy Corbyn said he would try to make  Brexit go ahead even if Labour won a general election before it happened.
  • In February 2019, Jeremy Corbyn set out how he was ready to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
  • In March 2019, writing in the Daily Mirror, Jeremy Corbyn repeated his support for Brexit, saying, “I will continue to reach out to get a decent Brexit deal”.

Or, as the Labour Leave group wrote about Jeremy Corbyn in April 2016:

Corbyn is a well known Eurosceptic, who voted against membership in 1975, voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, and voted against the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

Given his views he has made a number of strongly anti-EU comments over the years.


34 responses to “Jeremy Corbyn’s views on Brexit: a long held stance on Europe”

  1. I would vote for corbyn (notice the disrespectful lowercase c) if, and only if, he gave an unequivocal and credible commitment to stop brexit. That is absolute. As corbyn is a europhobe it seems unlikely to arise. The rest of this comment is really a cry for help. Is voting tactically to remove my europhobe mp, Iain Stewart justified as we LibDems are nowhere near likely to win on our own? I suppose if it helped secure a Lib Dem victory in OxWab…..? but my local labour candidates stick to corbyn’s party line like limpets……

    • Exactly my predicament – a vote for the Lib Dems is wasted in Hammersmith, which besides has one of the few courageous, pro-Remain Labour MPs, Andy Slaughter, a very hard worker for the borough.

      • It is time to start voting Lib Dem and building the Lib Dem vote.
        If we always vote tactically we will never grow the membership.

    • Steve Hills – strange that, I’d vote corbyn if – and only if, he gave an unequivocal assurance that he would remove us from the EU.
      Tony Benn, corbyn’s hero (and like you, I have precious little respect for the man), was equally opposed to the EU and spoke out strongly on the subject.

  2. These points should be published in our campaigning in Labour remain areas. Is his opposition to the EU going to take a hit with voters as his stance becomes obvious. Could this be the reason he wishes to improve Community campaigning to negate any voter losses and to prepare support for Labour after Brexit.
    Equally we should expand our community campaigning to counteract his strategy.

  3. I am more and more convinced that the referendum result did not reflect what the nation wanted if it had known and understood the facts as they were known then. Now it is reluctant to change its mind. It will require constant campaigning to achieve a sizeable majority to remain.

    • What an arrogant comment. Why do remoaners always assume Brexiters are thick. In my experience of campaigning it is the brexiters that actually researched the EU issue before committing to one side or the other. The amount of venom and insults I regularly receive indicates that remainers are easily swayed by the opinions of others and rarely use critical thinking and logic.

      • There is no assumption of citizens that voted leave to be of low intelligence in Peter’s post. No venom or insults just an opinion that the decicion to leave may have been made without information that was not available at the time.
        The only insults appear to come from you.

      • All the decisions of my adult life have been based on the UK being a European member state. Free movement and shared healthcare has been a given. I have always owned a European passport that allows me to stay in Europe as long as I please without question. Leaving Europe means that my entire life decisions are now no good. I was already a part of the Thatcherite “lost generation” who suffered redundancy & instability as a result of her decisions on trade. Later I became a single mother when the Tory party decided to persecute single mothers by not giving them enough money to feed their children. Now, for a third time, I am being forgotten, my needs ignored. As I have invested what little I have abroad for my own security and that of my children it is being taken away. I am disgusted, appalled, disappointed and heartbroken that the people of the country I inhabit just don’t care about anyone but themselves.

      • Well, you obviously don’t care about the feelings of those who voted leave so why should they think about you. I feel the statement you have just made is a “Me, me me” statement. That might sound callous but it’s the way it is. Everyone voted for what they believed is right for them and that includes you. People suffering in this country because they can’t find work and facing poverty because of over population are not going to consider those who have invested money overseas. Why should they? They would probably think you are selfish for not considering them and the hardships they have to endure. No wonder remainers have been nicknamed remoaners.

  4. Corbyn has consistently confused membership of the EU and single market. Is he really that dim or is he wilfully misleading the electorate? He appears to be pandering to xenophobic fears by opposing freedom of movement and therefore opposes the single market and therefore membership of the EU regardless of the consequences.

  5. Does this man really hope to be PM? His views on Europe are so out of date that he actually undermines parliament’s attempts to clip the governments wings. As Opposition leader (notice the disrespectful lowercase l) the message should be an unequivocal and credible commitment to stop brexit. Ideally the leader of the official opposition would be setting out their vision of the UK’s place in the EU beyond March 2019, outlining what we can contribute to the project in return for the things they give us. Helping Macron with the two speed Europe for example.

  6. The crazy thing is that no matter what information like this comes to light, many of his ardent supporters still claim that he is playing the long game on Brexit and that in the end we’ll all understand that he is secretly a remainer all along…

  7. The thing is, Mark, that the only way to stop Brexit is with Labour. If Corbyn himself is indeed still as anti-EU as he’s always been, the vast majority of Labour members certainly aren’t, nor are most Labour MPs. That creates a very interesting dynamic. Ultimately you have to either manage to persuade the leadership to oppose Brexit, or you change the leadership. The question is whether you can take this Labour leadership on enough of a journey in the time we have available to stop Brexit.

    • While Corbyn is leader, it will not be possible to stop Brexit with Labour. The only way to force a change of policy is for Labour to lose pro-EU voters to other more umambiguously pro-EU parties, regardless of how remote their chances of election might be.

  8. I’ve been a lifelong Labour supporter but I know how badly Brexit will hit the NHS. I’ve asked many Momentum supporters to explain how Labour proposes to avoid the damage but they never answer & scream abuse at Tories and then at me for not agreeing with them. I don’t recognise the party anymore but I can’t vote for those people. I’m now pushing for a free vote of MPs on accepting final deal/remain. I’m actively supporting Remain parties in local elections, but most of all in the GE I will vote tactically to try and create another hung parliament. Hopefully the balance will be held by Remain parties, but whatever the outcome under our rotten electoral system, at least I’ll know I did what I felt was right and can respect myself for not voting for people I knew were bad and wrong.

  9. In relation to Alex’s very sensible sub-comment above, the chance to shift Labour’s policy via Labour losing pro-EU voters to other more unambiguously pro-EU parties came and went with the Lewisham East byelection last Thursday. That was a seat in which 66% of voters had voted Remain, including an estimated 22,000 Labour Remain voters from the 2017 GE.

    But Labour still won the seat relatively easily with just over 50% of the vote (down from 68%). The unambiguously pro-EU Liberal Democrats, who campaigned in their literature and on the doorstep on a platform which was wholeheartedly pro-EU, Exit from Brexit, and pro The People’s Vote, while contrasting this with Corbyn’s Brexit stance, still only managed 25% of the vote (albeit up from only 4.4%).

    It seems that most Labour Remain voters aren’t prepared to be shifted, and to vote in such a way as to send an overwhelming anti Brexit message to Corbyn and the Labour Party, even when it comes to the absolutely the most central, and all encompassing, issue of Brexit, affecting so adversely, as it does, the wellbeing of ordinary working people.

  10. There can be little doubt that Corbyn’s history shows him to be anti-Europe. He is a man of principle and therefore I cannot see that he will now change his personal opinion. However, as a man of principle and party leader, he has said he will follow the wishes of the majority if they request another referendum. Two principles in conflict. If he has any political nous, he will put party wishes above personal bias. If he does, I feel he will gain more votes than he will lose but he will have to show a lot more enthusiasm for going along with his party members than he has so far. If he does, I, as a lifetime Liberal, would vote for him because we have to get rid of this utterly inept and broken Tory government

  11. There is a non xenophobic reason for wishing to undermine the EU by leaving and hoping that others follow suit. That is quite simply that a world consisting of relatively small states with their own quirky characteristics and customs is a more vibrant place to live than a world of monocultures. Globalisation has done most ordinary folk no favours. Regarding government I think that small is beautiful, the more locally that decisions can be made the better it is. Having said all this, I think that another referendum is absolutely required now that we know the mess we’ll be left with due to the mismanagement of the tory team.

  12. A little late to this thread I’m afraid, however, I see no mystery in Corbyn’s opposition to the EU – once established, the EU (and it’s previous incarnations) has functioned as a neoliberal plantation, the ECB diverting public money away from the needs and wellbeing of the public, into the accounts of interlinked multinationals and merchant bank interests – Further – ‘nations’ (obsolete term in an economic sense)tied to the Euro, have all lost out to the biggest industrial power – Germany, partly because the common currency has removed the mechanism of regaining an economic / industrial foothold through devaluation of individual currencies, UK have remained propped up by nefarious financial ‘services’ and dirty arms sales – you and I have not benefited, just GDP data
    Brexit under a government exercising growth policies – investment in small and medium size business, infrastructure / housing / national health, genuine effective regulation of the financial sector arms and pharmaceutical industries, corporate tax, genuinely free press and media – would make perfect sense – there is a magic money tree, the banking industry shake it on a regular basis, then spend the money in their private casino, and little or nothing trickles down!
    Brexit under a hard right wing UK Government will (ultimately) take away what little protection remains in place for the average UK citizen, under EU law
    Stay in the EU to avert a fascist free for all, or exit the EU and push hard for a (genuine) social democracy?
    How can Corbyn endorse an organisation that operates in the interests of the elite, whilst presenting as a force for good with a veneer of citizen friendly legislation.

  13. Corbyn is an idealist and wants a Marxist inspired Socialist State composed of local communes and governed by a parliament comprising the elected representatives of each of those communes. This radical change is not achievable within the EU.

  14. As far as I am aware we’ve never said that the EU was perfect. Reforms are needed, but the result of the referendum has given us the chance to reflect and understand its workings, its good points and its failings. Given a second chance, I’d still vote to stay in the EU but the time since June 2016 has made me a Reformer, not a Remainer. Quitting the EU is really not an option.

  15. Corbyn has always been Eurosceptic and I know someone that knows him personally and would confirm this.

    His too face attitude I don’t like.

    He only wants a GE so she can put his policies in place his Brexit is still same. You cannot get a good deal from the EU unless you are a member of it.

  16. Why let him have leadership?
    Why let him mess about with rules of party to be less Democratic whilst out there proclaiming giving back the party to the members?
    Why let him lie so consistently about the party as a whole? It is most definitely for the few and nit for the many.
    Why vote for Corbyn?

    • I fully agree with both your and Ginny Lee’s comments. Would change my mind and support Leave if it were genuinely going to make this a democratic country, i. e. suiting the many not the few, but I don’t think that even under Labour it would be (but it would still be an improvement on a tory brexit).

  17. Its hard to see how membership of the EU is consistent with the philosophy that Corbyn and McDonnell have followed in the Labour party. Namely, forced sequestration of private shareholdings (Utilities and Power), removal of the human right to educate your children as you see fit (European Human rights). These and many more are more akin to a policy followed in countries like Zimbabwe than one following the rule of law in Europe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.