corbyn Jeremy Corbyn at a rally in August 2016. Photo: Wikipedia

Support for the Brexit bill is an essential prerequisite for effective opposition to a Tory Brexit

No principle has been betrayed by Jeremy Corbyn this week. No concessions have been made on the rights of EU citizens, workers or the environment. Basic democratic principles have been upheld; the result of the referendum has been respected.

The Tories voted down Labour’s amendments, as they would have voted down any attempt to block Article 50. The parliamentary opposition was too divided to apply sufficient pressure and the extra-parliamentary opposition is yet to fully cohere.

However, suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Article 50 is opportunistic, driven solely by electoral calculations, misses the point. We absolutely need Corbyn to stay as Labour leader, but support for Article 50 is an essential prerequisite for effective opposition to a Tory Brexit.

Theresa May has a mandate to negotiate exit from the EU. She does not have a mandate to slash living standards and tear up citizens’ rights.

Seeking to mobilise the 48%, a minority, against the referendum result is a dead end, a route to permanent minority status. Uniting remain and leave voters against a Tory Brexit in struggle points a way forward.

Ahead lies two years of mobilisation for the left and social movements to contest the nature of Brexit. This needs to be situated in the context of general opposition to the Tories: on the NHS, the economy, Trump’s visit, racism and so on. If we can drain the legitimacy from May’s government in general, then we also drain the legitimacy from her version of Brexit.

In doing this, the terrain is prepared for a vote against any ‘final’ Brexit deal that May presents in 2019; and, should that Tory deal pass, for a call to overturn it in a general election in 2020. This would not place the UK back in the EU, but it could put a left wing government in office.

Jeremy Corbyn got it right this week. There is everything to play for.

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