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THE most comforting responses to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Coventry on leaving the European Union have been from Eurofanatics demanding that he should have backed a second referendum and plumped for staying in the EU internal market.
If Liberal Democrats, Scottish nationalists and Greens are criticising him, he must be on the right track because they will never reconcile themselves to the electorate’s decision and will fight tooth and nail to reverse it.
Corbyn takes a more principled attitude to democracy, having backed the Remain campaign but accepted that respecting the Leave verdict means delivering it rather than searching for pretexts to ignore it.
For all Boris Johnson’s efforts to portray himself as champion of an undiluted commitment to leaving the EU, everyone remembers the amazement of fellow Bullingdon boys David Cameron and George Osborne to learn of his decision to back Leave, so his “EU colony” and “Labour white flag” rhetoric can be disregarded.
Corbyn has had a difficult furrow to plough, winning support for his line of leaving the EU from Labour MPs who, in the main, were confirmed Remainers.
The Labour leader has been consistent in his line that jobs, living standards and the economy have to be paramount and has drawn most backbenchers behind him on that basis.
He has been plagued by a plethora of “initiatives” by pro-EU true believers, setting out demands to frustrate the referendum decision.
The latest instalment in yesterday’s Observer — featuring the usual suspects, including MPs Chuka Umunna, Wes Streeting, Chris Leslie and Brussels gravy train season ticket-holders Lord Kinnock and Lord Mandelson — demands that Britain stays in the EU internal market, otherwise called the single market.
Their justification is that “the single market is more than a free trade zone between EU countries,” which formulation, of course, confirms that continued membership of the single/internal market implies remaining an EU member, which would equate to telling voters they got it wrong and will be disregarded.
They say that the single/internal market is also “a framework of rules, including on employment rights, consumer and environmental standards, that protects people from the worst excesses of globalisation and unfettered capitalism.”
Leave aside any head-scratching worries about trying to remember the last time these neoliberalism advocates last denounced the “worst excesses of globalisation and unfettered capitalism.”
Defending existing standards in these areas does not require staying in the EU.
Corbyn stresses that Labour rejects “any race to the bottom in workers’ rights, environmental safeguards, consumer protections or food safety standards” and would legislate to incorporate all existing standards into British law.
For what it is worth — possibly not too much — even the Tories have dropped their previous plan to pick and choose and now pledge to honour all existing safeguards.
This was not their original plan, but they have been forced by labour movement intervention to backtrack to some degree, as they have over the rights of EU citizens living and working here — though not yet to an acceptable extent.
That emphasises the major contradiction between the Labour leadership approach and that chosen by those who place Britain’s continued membership of a burgeoning neoliberal bureaucratic superstate over a democratic decision by Britain’s electorate.
One prioritises a class-based campaigning strategy that poses clear choices on defending jobs, living standards and economic development and the other ducks and dives, adopting revived versions of Project Fear to cow voters into accepting that their decision cannot be allowed to stand.
There is only one side for working people to be on.
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