Labour MP: Jeremy Corbyn “has not changed” in his hostility to the EU

Labour MP: Jeremy Corbyn “has not changed” in his hostility to the EU

Graham Stringer, one of the few Labour MPs to back a Leave vote at the referendum, has told BrexitCentral that Jeremy Corbyn “is where he’s always been ideologically” in his hostility to the European Union, after a meeting with his party leader.

Mr Corbyn has a long history of euroscepticism, having voted against the UK remaining in the EEC at the 1975 referendum and opposing both the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2008. But since being elected to the party leadership, he has had to lead a party dominated in Parliament by enthusiastic Remain supporters, despite there having been millions of Labour supporters who voted Leave.

The Labour leader was infamously lukewarm in his publicly declared support for Remain during the referendum camapign, giving the EU “seven or seven and a half out of ten” when asked about it on TV shortly before polling day last year, with some even suggesting that he may secretly have voted Leave in the privacy of the polling station.

But answering a question from BrexitCentral at the Labour Leave fringe meeting held in Brighton yesterday, Mr Stringer, MP for the Manchester constituency of Blackley and Broughton, revealed that his party leader discussed his true feelings about the European Union in a private meeting with him and fellow Labour Leave backers, Kelvin Hopkins and John Mann, shortly before the summer recess.

“He was absolutely clear,“ said Mr Stringer. “One, that we are leaving the EU because that was decided in the referendum; secondly, that you can’t leave the EU if you stay in the internal market; and thirdly, you can’t leave the EU if you stay in the customs union.”

The Labour MP went on to commend Mr Corbyn for highlighting to Andrew Marr on BBC1 on Sunday how membership of the single market places restrictions on state aid and state spending and that there were powers that any government he led would need that would not necessarily be compatible with EU rules.

Mr Stringer continued: “The statement he made yesterday reinforced that in a very strongly political way – which will I hope resonate with some of the people who strongly support Jeremy who are from the Remain camp – that basically you can’t carry out what we now call a radical programme if we remain in the EU, i.e. we will be bound by the state aid rules and will not be able to nationalise things in the way we may wish to.”

He acknowledged that, as leader, Mr Corbyn now has to balance electoral considerations and internal party management, but that “on this issue I think Jeremy is where he’s always been ideologically… I have no doubt that his position has not changed.”