Corbyn holds his ground on Europe

Just another typical Friday night in British politics then! Last night, after Shadow Northern Ireland secretary and former leadership contender Owen Smith broke ranks to call for a second referendum on Brexit, he was swiftly sacked by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Smith who has refused to leave quietly has today claimed the Labour leader has made a mistake by removing him over his Brexit stance. The sacking has also drawn sharp criticism from other Labour figures. Peter Hain described the move as a “Stalinist purge”, Chuka Umunna questioned “what has happened to our party?”, with Ben Bradshaw saying he was “very sorry” about the removal of Owen Smith.

So then, what does this say about the current status of the Labour Party and what happens next? Firstly, the speed of the move suggests Corbyn feels in a very powerful position in the party. No longer does he fear the moderates (if he ever did!) and their attacks. Additionally, he clearly feels emboldened by recent internal elections and appointments in the Labour Party. This is a man who is now behaving and acting like he now has almost total control of the party.

Secondly, it indicates Labour’s position on Europe is not going to radically change anytime soon. There had been growing hope in the Labour Party that Corbyn could be persuaded to adopt a different tone on Europe, especially after he backed a permanent customs union after Brexit. This, will not be the case. Labour will not under Corbyn’s leadership be backing a second referendum on Brexit or the terms of Brexit. This is an unequivocal statement from the Labour leadership team they intend to stand fully behind the referendum result.

Obviously, the grumbling on the backbenches is going to continue and there will be considerable rebellions within the Labour Party on Europe. The backbenchers will also believe they have the support of their members who largely back a second referendum.

What is clear though is what will not happen next. There will be no new move against Corbyn. The moderates will not attempt to challenge Corbyn again, knowing they cannot and will not win. Therefore it seems there is very little that can be done. The reality is that this is Corbyn’s party now and his views go. The die has been cast.

Article by Mike Hough

Photograph: Sky News

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