“I would advocate a No (Leave) vote if we are going to get an imposition of free market policies across Europe.” So said Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn last summer. But by yesterday, that had turned into: “Labour is convinced that a vote to remain is in the best interests of the people of this country.”
So what’s changed in the intervening nine months? Certainly nothing happened in the renegotiation, nor in EU policy-making since last summer, to reassure Jeremy Corbyn about his concerns that Europe is a “corporatist club.” Well perhaps we have seen a rare outbreak of pragmatism from the Labour Leader. He is very likely to face a leadership challenge between now and 2020, and a recent poll showed that nearly 70% of Labour Members would not vote for a candidate who advocated Brexit.
Aside from the internal politics, will Corbyn’s long awaited intervention make much difference to the referendum outcome? He described his position as the “socialist case for Remain”. And therein lies the risk. Most of those to whom that will appeal to are already on the Remain side. With Labour, Lib Dem and SNP supporters all set to vote clearly to Remain, this referendum will be won or lost amongst the supporters of the Conservative Party. And whatever Corbyn says won’t swing them one way or the other. If anything, his “socialist case” could even edge floating Tories into the Leave camp. So after forty years of Euro-scepticism starting with his vote to leave in the 1974 referendum, maybe Jeremy Corbyn’s latest words might actually have made Brexit more likely. Maybe he’s more cunning than given credit for.