Why Corbyn should back a left-wing Brexit

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I’m a left-wing Labour member and I support Brexit. I write in the style of a confession piece because, throughout the UK and especially at Oxford, to make such a claim is to invite horror and disbelief. As recently as October, people marched in their thousands to campaign for a new referendum that would boil down to telling voters: “You spoke; we heard; now we choose to ignore you.” Guardian journalists revel in making blanket claims such as “The Brexit result has made it OK to be racist,” and Vince Cable went as far as to accuse Brexit voters of desiring a world filled with “blue passports and white faces.” 

In making such condescending remarks, these people insult my north-eastern home, my working-class background (two social groups that voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU), and the integrity of my socialism. As much as I agree with many of his policies, Corbyn and his cowardice on this issue have only contributed to this false dichotomy of ‘left equals Remain; right equals Brexit.’ He has spent the last three years arguing a case he doesn’t actually believe in. Are we really supposed to entertain the notion that a man who has spoken and voted against the European Union throughout his entire parliamentary career has suddenly become an enthusiastic Remainer? 

“In a further show of allegiance to business owners over workers, Article 106 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union seeks to limit public ownership of goods and services.”

Why would he, and indeed why would any socialist voter, choose to tie themselves with a so-called “Union” of capitalist inequality? It seems inconsistent that the same people who claim to support policies like renationalising the railways, forcing multinational corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, and defending workers’ rights in the UK can simultaneously wax lyrical about the leftist glories of the EU. 

This is an organisation that has attacked the principle of industrial action and their efforts have paid off in the European Court, with cases such as Viking and Laval. The verdict delivered by the ECJ in both instances placed a series of vague checks and caveats on strikes. They ruled that demonstrations are somehow illegitimate if they “make the exercise of the right [to industrial action] less attractive.” To be sure, there is nothing “attractive” about workers feeling the need to strike because they are being underpaid and forced to suffer unsavoury or even dangerous working conditions, but it is their bosses, not they, who are responsible for such ugliness. 

In a further show of allegiance to business owners over workers, Article 106 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union seeks to limit public ownership of goods and services, at the same time as the left in this country are attempting to defend our beloved NHS against privatisation. These policies benefit the super-rich and only the super-rich of Europe, so it’s little wonder that neoliberal capitalists including David Cameron and Theresa May campaigned ardently to remain.  

“Socialism and the EU are simply incompatible.”

Similarly, despite what Remainers like Chuka Umunna and Harriet Harman have argued, the Single Market is far from an ideal economic haven. It does not aim to provide high quality services and create fair working conditions, but rather to maximise private profits at the lowest expense. This often means outsourcing manufacturing jobs to developing nations with lower factory costs, and using the free movement principal to exploit migrant workers. It is not immigration (as UKIP claims) that is the core problem with the EU, but the way in which immigration is exploited by corporations who wish to drive down wages. There is nothing “left-wing” or “anti-racist” about that. 

Corbyn could have made these critiques, and many more, during the referendum campaign in 2016. It’s too late to change the mistakes he made back then, but considering his wishy-washy approach has done him few favours among ardent Remain and Leave supporters alike, I think it is time for him to assert his real position on the issue. His public, vocal support for a socialist Brexit will allow the left in this country to finally reclaim the process from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. 

In the words of a certain closet Eurosceptic, we must work for the many, not the few. To deliver on Corbyn’s much-used mantra means securing liberty from an institution that has proven time and time again it cares nought for the working classes. Socialism and the EU are simply incompatible. 

Image Credit: Chatham House London, via commons.wikimedia.org (cc-by-2.0)