Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Corbyn speech on Europe

I doubt if I am the only person struggling at the moment with this question -

If Jeremy Corbyn wants Britain to be in the EU, should I?

By most accounts it was a good speech and the more powerful for appearing to reflect a sincere conversion.

(The link is to The Economist's report of Corbyn's speech explaining why he now backs Remain.)

Much of the "Leave" side are accusing him of hypocrisy and suggesting he does not really believe what he was saying. His opening joke observing that the venue, Senate House in London, was the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984, may have inadvertently played into that narrative.

Had Jeremy Corbyn pretended to have had a damascene conversion to remain and waxed lyrical about how wonderful the European Union is, I would not have believed he really meant a word of it. He has been a Eurosceptic for far too long to make that likely.

However, let us remember what, in the proper usage of the term, words like "Eurosceptic" ought to mean. In both Greek and English a sceptic is not something who is implacably opposed to something or hates it with the most extreme venom. A sceptic is someone who wants to look at the evidence for a proposal rather than taking it on trust, a person who asks awkward questions, one who has to be convinced.

In that sense it is perfectly possible to be a Eurosceptic but ultimately decide that Britain is better off inside the EU even while recognising the imperfections of that body, "warts and all."

My biggest problem with Jeremy Corbyn's apparent conversion to that view is that, just as different people on the "leave" side have been putting forward incompatible arguments, I have to ask myself how compatible the arguments put forward by Jeremy Corbyn are with those advanced by David Cameron.

Of course, there is some confusion among those who are making the extreme version of this point.

One person asked today that if Jeremy Corbyn thinks that Conservatives were itching to leave the EU so that they could dismantle workers' protections, how did he explain the fact that David Cameron backs Remain?

Actually there's a simple answer to that one. DC might not be there for long in the event of a Leave vote and his successor might take a very different line.

Jeremy Corbyn's speech may have a big impact on firming and getting out the Labour "Remain" vote without which that side cannot win.

It adds, however, more complexity to my personal decision because some, not all, of his reasons for changing his view are things which I am far from comfortable with.

Postscript - Andrew Lillico rightly points out here at CAPX that Corbyn has advanced what is probably the weirdest argument for Remain which we have heard in the campaign to date. To quote from Andrew's piece

"He said that if the UK left the EU there would be a bonfire of regulation and we would become much more free market. I suspect that was meant to be an argument against leaving. (If it were an argument in favour of leaving, I would probably caution that I don’t believe it’s right, but anyway…)

He also said it was vital to stay in the EU so we could fight the TTIP being negotiated between the EU and the US, which would otherwise destroy the NHS. Yes. That was really what he said. Why the option of leaving the EU so as not to be part of the TTIP wasn’t attractive, I have no idea."


I too would think that a bonfire of regulation and a more free market would be a positive argument for "Leave" and would be far more likely to vote "Leave" were I convinced that such a bonfire would follow.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I very strongly disagree with the idea that TTIP is a threat to the NHS. Corbyn, however,  appears to have swallowed this ridiculous nonsense: how on earth he imagines that view is an argument for Remain I cannot begin to understand.


Jim said...

A "bonfire of regulation" is an absolute none starter, we have been though this Chris. You have read Flexcit, so you know exactly why its not.

a "bonfire of regulations" is a promise we never could deliver.

Do we need less regulation? - I would say no, what we do need is better regulations.
How do we do that? - we leave the EU and retake our seat at the top tables.


Chris Whiteside said...

Be fair, Jim, the passage from Andrew L. which I quoted warned anything resembling Corbyn's "bonfire of regulation" was not likely to be delivered in the event of a "Leave" vote and I inferred that I agreed with him.

I don't think it's worth getting too hung up on the exact form of words: the point I think Andrew was making, and I certainly was, is that less restrictive regulation would in general be a good thing. I take entirely your point about better regulation.

Jim said...

It is true you did infer it, but I just had to make it quite clear is all.

That is all I really meant by that one.