Corbyn wise to keep his powder dry over Brexit negotiations
Rafael Behr’s assessment of Jeremy Corbyn’s position in relation to Brexit (It’s becoming ever clearer that Corbyn wants a hard Brexit, 15 May) contains two assumptions that are almost certainly wrong. First, if it was good strategy a year ago for the leader of the opposition to keep his powder dry by outlining, but not detailing, a broad preference for the outcome, it remains good strategy. Behr’s assumption is that Corbyn should shift his ground because he will not be able to hold his position much longer. The fact that some within Labour are beginning to show signs of panic does not justify a change of policy. We have to remember that the negotiations are being conducted by the government (sadly), not by parliament.
So all opposition parties must wait until some kind of deal is proposed, and then go through the process of putting forward amendments and voting. We know this will not be straightforward, or quick. We also know parliament must be ready to create hell if it does not get all the time it needs to wrangle the proposed deal into another form, or another, or another. The desire to make some kind of pre-emptive move at this stage is understandable, but it should be resisted, and Corbyn can resist.
Behr also seeks to paint Corbyn with hard Brexit colours on the shaky grounds that if he does not actually oppose it he must approve of it. Of course, there is Euroscepticism in Labour – why wouldn’t there be? Caution should be part of any dealings with EU institutions, and Labour has no reason to embrace current European economic orthodoxy, but Behr should know Corbyn is not planning to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We may yet be landed with a harder Brexit than anyone imagined, not because of Labour’s reticence, but because those who panic will play into Jacob Rees-Mogg’s hands. Michael Bowers
• Jeremy Corbyn is not renowned for his political astuteness. But he is a step ahead of Neil Kinnock. Kinnock (Jeremy Corbyn must change course on the EEA, says Lord Kinnock, theguardian.com, 12 May) is advocating a course of action, voting to remain in the European Economic Area, that would rip Labour apart. The Tories would love to see Corbyn at war with those Labour constituencies that voted leave. Some Labour MPs would relish the chance to get the boot in too, accusing him of defying the will of the people. Labour will be free to propose a different course of action when two conditions are fulfilled. The government’s plan for Brexit must be known. And it must be recognised as disastrous. Until then Corbyn is wisely keeping his powder dry. David Butler