Tuesday

21st May 2019

Doubts over new Labour leader's EU views

  • Jeremy Corbyn said he wants "greater social solidarity across Europe", not "a market agenda". (Photo: Ciarran Norris)

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader on Saturday (12 September) is dividing the party and has raised doubts about Labour's position on EU membership.

Corbyn, who was elected by party members with a 59.5 percent majority, has so far refused to say whether he would campaign for or against Britain staying in the EU when a referendum is held in 2016 or 2017.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

On Sunday, Labour shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna resigned over "differences, not least on the European referendum".

"It is my view that we should support the UK remaining a member of the EU, notwithstanding the outcome of any renegotiation by the prime minister, and I cannot envisage any circumstances where I would be campaigning alongside those who would argue for us to leave," Umunna said.

"Jeremy has made it clear to me that he does not wholeheartedly share this view."

Labour's new deputy leader, Tom Watson, also admitted differences with Corbyn over Nato, which Corbyn wants Britain to leave, and over the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon, which Corbyn opposes. He also suggested differences over EU membership.

"I will be Yes to Europe definitely, and I hope we can convince the Labour Party, those sceptics in the Labour Party, that that is where Labour needs to be in the referendum," he said on BBC Television on Sunday.

'Red herrings'

A Corbyn ally, however, sought to alleviate doubts, saying talks of leaving Nato and the EU were "red herrings".

"That’s not the programme [Corbyn] competed to be the leader on. I can say with confidence, Jeremy is not taking us out of Nato and he is not taking us out of the EU," she told BBC Radio on Sunday.

Corbyn reshuffled the shadow cabinet on Sunday and kept Hilary Benn, who was appointed last May, as shadow foreign secretary.

Benn, who was a member of Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's governments, is a supporter of EU membership.

"I will be voting for Britain to remain in the EU," he wrote before summer.

"The fact is, we have more power as a nation because we are in the EU than we could ever hope to have by acting alone."

Opponent of 'too liberal' Europe

Corbyn, a hard-left socialist, has long been an opponent of the EU, which he considers as too liberal.

"What I want to see is greater social solidarity across Europe," he told Reuters press agency last month.

"I'm for a sort of social, environmental, solidarity agenda rather than a market agenda."

During the Labour leadership campaign, it emerged that Corbyn voted No to the last EU membership referendum in Britain, in 1975.

When asked in July whether he would be campaigning for the No to EU membership at the next referendum, he said: "I wouldn't rule it out...Because Cameron quite clearly follows an agenda which is about trading away workers' rights, is about trading away environmental protection, is about trading away much of what is in the social chapter."

Timmermans calls for left-wing coalition at debate

The centre-right's Manfred Weber got most of the heat at the EU Commission presidential candidates' final debate before the European elections, while Frans Timmermans reached out to a possible coalition partners - piling more pressure on Weber's EPP.

Analysis

As candidates debate, more names surface for EU top jobs

Candidates from EU political families clash at the closely-watched debate in the European Parliament - but the elections themselves, plus lukewarm support from heads of government, could upend previous calculations.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden Democrat MEP ousted for revealing sex harassment
  2. 80% of Erasmus students find job within three months
  3. September elections in Austria after Strache scandal
  4. Swiss voters approve tighter gun controls in line with EU
  5. Report: May's fourth Brexit vote a 'retread' of old ideas
  6. Turkey insists on right to drill for oil off Cyprus coast
  7. Anti-Salvini banners become new trend in Italy
  8. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us