Ever since the contest for the Labour Party’s leadership started, there was a debate over what the new leader’s position would be on Britain’s EU membership referendum and what implications this would have on the future of Britain’s EU membership.
When Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership contest with a landslide victory of 59.5%, there was doubt about what steps Corbyn would take in relation to the EU, as he is known to be anti-EU when it comes certain issues such as the workers’ rights.
In his first major interview after his election with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, Corbyn revealed he will not be campaigning for Britain to leave the EU but did not give details of his stance.
His opinion piece in the Financial Times finally clarified his position on Britain’s EU membership referendum, and he now hopes to have dispelled all the doubts about his position.
In the article he said: “Labour is clear that we should remain in the EU. But we too want to see reform”. By which he means that he would be fighting against “Brexit”, as well as ask for major EU reforms in the EU, such as an end to austerity, more protection for workers’ rights, ending free market deregulations and more importantly campaign for a financial transaction tax that may alienate many in the City.
Simultaneously he took two crucial steps to consolidate his support base in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), where his main weakness lies. First his office sent a briefing note to Labour MPs, declaring unequivocally that Labour will be campaigning in the referendum to stay in the EU. Secondly he asked pro-European and known Blairite, Pat McFadden, to continue as the shadow Europe minister.
In order to reform the EU in such radical manner, Corbyn has suggested he would work with trade unions and social groups across Europe and at home, not forgetting the importance of securing the backing of the PLP.
Given his low popularity in the PLP and the radical reforms Corbyn is proposing in relation to the EU, it remains to be seen in the next weeks and months whether he can galvanize Labour MPs’ support for his leadership and if his reform ideas will be incorporated into Labour’s election manifesto.
by Gulay Icoz