Entry 14

UK political left wobbles about supporting EU membership

 The new leader of the Labour Party, Britain’s largest left grouping, has publicly committed to staying in the EU. Jeremy Corbyn returned to support Britain’s EU membership after appearing to change his mind in his first week as the party’s leader.

The Guardian reported that Corbyn said Labour would make the case for staying in the EU “whatever the outcome of the renegotiation being sought by David Cameron. We will make the case that membership of the EU helps Britain to create jobs, secure growth, encourage investment and tackle the issues that cross borders – like climate change, terrorism, tax havens and the current refugee crisis.”

During his campaign in August to win leadership of the Labour Party, he appeared to suspend support for EU membership and embrace a neutral policy position. Reuters news agency reports Corbyn saying: “We would have to have a discussion in the Labour party on this, maybe a special conference. There are many views on Europe in the Labour Party and I wouldn’t want to suppress any of those views.”

If Corbyn had maintained his ambiguous position, this would have been a major crisis for Labour and the British left because it has mostly supported EU membership since 1975.

Labour supporting EU withdrawal would have thrown the outcome of the forthcoming referendum on membership into an open race.

But EU membership could still cause Labour major problems because some trade unions (financial backers of Labour) are threatening to urge their members to vote for withdrawal if the re-negotiated terms for British membership include worse terms for workplace rights and social solidarity.

One big union is warning that it will mobilise its members to vote ‘no’ in the referendum: “Let’s send a clear message – we will not be complicit in cutting worker’s rights in the UK.”

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