Cor­byn wise to keep his pow­der dry over Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

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

Tal­garth, Bre­con­shire

• 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, the­, 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


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