Almost half of all Labour voters have no idea what their party’s stance is on the EU referendum on 23rd June, partly because of their leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ambiguous signals. After a lifetime of anti-EU behaviours and speeches, his recent Remain efforts have been far from enthusiastic, the head of one of the country’s largest unions said.
Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union – the third largest Labour-affiliated union – publicly warned this week that the Remain campaign risks losing to the Leave camp, in large part because of the Labour leader’s lackluster effort. The warning comes as Corbyn prepares to praise the EU (European Union) in a speech.
According to a leaked memo within GMB, which represents 640,000 workers, almost half of all Labour voters have no idea that the vast majority of their MPs back remaining within the 28-member economic bloc.
In the 1975 Referendum, Mr. Corbyn voted against joining the European Economic Community (name of the EU at the time).
Many think Labour supports Leave
In fact, approximately 45% of Labour voters in a recent survey thought their party was either supporting the Leave campaign or was evenly divided.
In the 1975 referendum, when British voters chose to join the EEC (European Economic Community), Mr. Corbyn voted to stay out. For decades after that he has talked about leaving the economic bloc and has attended many anti-EU meetings.
Given his current half-hearted attempt to persuade Britons to vote in favour of remaining, millions of voters across the country wonder about his sincerity. In fact, more than half the electorate suspect he has become a closet Brexiteer.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr. Roache told political editor Laura Kuenssberg that his biggest concern was that Labour voters will fail to come out and vote on 23rd June.
Mr. Corbyn has been an avid anti-EU campaigner for the past forty-one years – except for this year. No wonder Labour supporters are confused! Is it too late to rally the troops and make sure they vote on 23 June?
Poor turnout favours Leave camp
Mr. Roache said:
“I think they won’t see it as the absolutely crucial vote that it is and I also think that they see it as a bunfight in the Tory party.”
After criticizing Labour’s lack of passion and commitment to the Remain camp, Mr. Roache said he was slightly encouraged because the party “is starting to do more.”
However, if the Labour leader is really serious about staying inside the European Union, a significantly bigger push is needed from them, he added.
Mr. Roache said:
“The reality is that the more people that stay at home the more likely it is that we will leave the EU. I don’t think we can even begin to contemplate that.”
After describing Mr. Corbyn as ‘a half-hearted Remain’, he urged others in the party to get behind their leader and campaign to vigorously stay in the EU.
Regarding the party’s leader, Mr. Roache said: “I think he probably could do a bit more, let’s hope he will.”
Tim Roache, head of the GMB Union, urges Mr. Corbyn to get stuck in and show more enthusiasm and passion in Labour’s pro-EU campaign.
Corbyn’s anti-EU history
Mr. Corbyn has a long history of anti-EU speeches. In 1993, he was vehemently against the Maastricht Treaty, which established the EU and moved towards economic and political union.
In a speech, Mr. Corbyn said regarding the Maastricht Treaty:
“[The treaty] takes away from national parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers who will impose the economic policies of price stability, deflation and high unemployment throughout the European Community.”
In 2008, he voted against the Lisbon Treaty, and wrote in an article that the EU had “always suffered a serious democratic deficit.”
In 2009, amid speculation who the first European Council President would be, Mr. Corbyn wrote:
“The creation of the post of president is a triumph for the tenacity of the European long-sighters. The project has always been to create a huge free-market Europe, with ever-limiting powers for national parliaments and an increasingly powerful common foreign and security policy.”
During a leadership campaign last year at a GMB hustings, when asked how he would vote if there were an EU-membership referendum one day, Mr. Corbyn said:
“I would advocate a No vote if we are going to get an imposition of free market policies across Europe.”
He then went on to criticise the military links with NATO and called for trade union harmonisation across the EU “rather than just allowing it as a business free-for-all across Europe”.
In 2015, in a debate hosted by the Fabian Society, he expressed ‘mixed feelings’ about the EU, while in a Warrington hustings he said he could not rule out joining the Leave camp.
Now, suddenly, as Labour leader, he is pro-Remain. That is probably why Labour voters are so confused!
Video – Corbyn anti EU history
Listen to Mr. Corbyn’s view of the EU in 1996, twenty-one years after he had voted not to join the economic bloc.