Channel 4 interviewed Jeremy Corbyn about Brexit. Apparently they were only allowed to ask him one question, so they asked the same question six times.

“Do you honestly believe that Britain is better off outside of the EU?”

He cannot answer.

Have a watch.

It’s painful to watch. I bet your eyes are rolling by the time you get half way through.

But it is important as well. While he comes across as somehow evasive as he is not answering the question, he is also honest – he cannot bring himself to actually lie, because Britain would not be better off outside the EU. Corbyn twelve or even six months ago would have answered this differently, maintaining the myth that all can be fine and dandy outside the EU.

This should then be seen as part of a softening of Labour’s Brexit position. You are never going to get Corbyn to be appreciative of the EU, but were there to be a political crisis of some sort this autumn in the UK (and even a fresh General Election as a result) then it’s now not inconceivable that Labour could position itself to back a second EU referendum.


  1. Ted Smith

    Can’t channel 4 ask any other question, other than cornering him, or are they gagged by the tories?

  2. Paul May

    Thanks Jon for this fair-minded response to a downbeat interview that has been met with some hysteria.

    I agree with your open-minded characterisation of Corbyn’s response. He didn’t lie, and (unlike formerly Remain-voting Conservatives) he didn’t disingenuously claim to have performed the psychogymnastics necessary to suggest that Britain would ‘prosper’ outside the EU or worse, that ‘no-deal is better than a bad deal’.

    Many Labour voters consider his position more palatable than is frequently represented by some of the loudest voices against Brexit, and distinguishable (enough) from the government’s position to be considered ‘Opposition’.

    But he can, and should, do far better:

    1. Members of the Shadow cabinet such as Barry Gardiner who make spurious claims that ‘we cannot have a People’s vote on the final deal because the right will rise up and turn violent’ need to be ejected.

    This is cowardice, pure and simple and unbefitting the ‘power to the people’ message on which Corbyn and Momentum lay claim. It is *never* acceptable to avoid a political action out of fear of reprisal from violent extremists. Such a statement or intent undermines our political institutions. It is also a deep disservice to the memory of Jo Cox.

    2. The Shadow Cabinet has inadequately defined their position on a future relationship with the European Union.

    The tone that Corbyn has struck in interviews suggests that ‘Brexit is only one of many issues for the Labour Party to take on, and not the first priority.’

    This position is completely untenable. There is not one facet of Labour’s 2017 manifesto which would not be detrimentally affected by either no-deal Brexit, or a Brexit outside the customs union and single market. An ejection from the Single Market (as every credible market analyst recognises) will deplete the public finances necessary to complete such projects, irrespective of the party in charge. To deliver the 2017 Labour manifesto, it WILL be necessary for the UK remain in the single market.

    This is a position that can unite the Labour party behind Corbyn’s manifesto. Saying that the Labour position is to “remain closely aligned, in regulations” merely advances the fantasy that the UK can enjoy all the benefits of the single market without remaining in it.

    3. The exiled situation of the 3 million in the UK and the British in Europe, is such an obvious political injustice, that it seems an open goal for Corbyn to take up and unite more of the Labour party behind him. Aggressively taking up these crueler issues of representation is entirely in-keeping with the message of Momentum, and yet he has remained largely silent on this issue.

    So whilst Corbyn’s statements within this interview should not be sensationalised, and rightly distinguished from the nihilistic governmental position — the Labour party’s position on Brexit remains at this date completely inadequate.

    If, as you say, there may be “a softening of Labour’s Brexit position, and that “Labour could position itself to back a second EU referendum” – how do you assess Barry Gardiner’s statements and the lack of a position to date? The #PeoplesVote campaign has been amassing momentum for far too long to ignore.

    Are they simply hanging on for the moment where final deal to be rejected? We are now at the 11th-hour. The time required for the process of rejecting the final deal in parliament, calling a general election, an ensuing leadership crisis in the government, preparing the options for a People’s vote (if backed), campaigning – is simply too short.

    Hence why the no-deal option is tragically, to be expected. This process may have at least mildly educated [some of] the Opposition in the mechanisms of the EU, the benefits of the single market, and the way to negotiate with the Commission. But they’ve waited until stupid o’clock.

  3. Brigitte Samtleben

    Jeremy Corbyn is good at finding 6 sentences, all saying in slightly different connotations : I don’t know…….
    …..And now to something completely different : Since I woke up some months ago and listened to the Radio News informing an astonished audience that Britain voted for YES I had the feeling, a kind of deep down believe (funny enough, I don’t generally rely on feelings and believes that much) that the BREXIT will not happen – and this conviction is not really decreasing – and I’ll be very surprised when there will be no 2nd referendum!! We’ll wait and see .

    • Brigitte Samtleben

      War es Ja, Brexit —-oder NEIN zur EU ? Vielleicht muss in meinem Kommentar etwas korrigiert werden!!! .-)

    • Brigitte Samtleben

      My comment may Need a correction (Was it YES Brexit oder No EU ???)

  4. I fear you may be a tad over-optimistic:

    “If you go down the road that’s being promoted by the Tory right, of a deal with the United States, we undoubtedly would be a lot worse off. I think the proposals that Labour is putting forward, and the way that Labour would conduct those negotiations, would make sure that people would be as well off or better off.

    ” But, fundamentally, it is also about how we run our economy in this country because we would be investing for the future rather than cutting for the future.”

  5. Karl Greenall

    It is important to remember that JC campaigned on a “remain and reform” platform for the referendum, and that since then has tended to keep a low profile on the issue of the EU.
    My own view on this is that as Brexit, as an issue, is an unfolding Tory disaster of epoch-changing proportions, and it is not the job of our party to provide a Tory government with a “Get out of Jail Free” card. It also means that, at the right time of his own choosing, he can show his hand as he sees fit. It is his prerogative, and not that of the media, who always get into trouble when they stray away from their proper job, which is reporting, not creating the news.
    I personally hope that means swing in behind and supporting calls for a second,but vastly more informed referendum, with a promise of serious engagement with Brussels on behalf of the people, and not in a populist sense, because it was playing on that sentiment that led the Tories to our current situation.

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