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”.

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.


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