Brexit is a Pandoras Box for the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn made the decision to remove Owen Smith from his front bench on Friday after he penned an article for the Guardian saying that leaving the EU was “the biggest economic crisis that our country will have faced for many, many generations”.
However, it was not necessarily the article but the Tweet after he was sacked that truly reveals the current position of the Labour Party. The former Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary said that “those views are shared by Labour members & supporters and I will continue to speak up for them, and in the interest of our country.”
Just been sacked by @jeremycorbyn for my long held views on the damage #Brexit will do to the Good Friday Agreement & the economy of the entire U.K. Those views are shared by Labour members & supporters and I will continue to speak up for them, and in the interest of our country.
— Owen Smith (@OwenSmith_MP) 23 March 2018
The opposition leader has attempted to unite his party behind the policy of remaining in the Customs Union, which would essentially lead to staying in the EU in all but name. Yet despite having committed to honouring the Brexit vote, however thinly, Jeremy Corbyn cannot silence the fact that there are Labour Party apparatchiks who are determined to reverse the vote and cannot unite behind him.
Speaking to Sky News after his sacking, Mr Smith pointed to the fact that many Labour supporters don’t think Mr Corbyn is being hard enough on Brexit. He said that:
Labour has many opinions about Brexit but the majority opinion – the opinion that is shared by the overwhelming majority of Labour members and Labour supporters, shown in poll after poll – is the one I articulated.
Owen Smith says he believes his position on a second EU referendum was “reasonable” and says he will continue to speak out pic.twitter.com/f43yHtNIy6
— Sky News (@SkyNews) 24 March 2018
Labour MP Chuka Umunna condemned Mr Cobryn’s decision to sack Mr Smith saying it was “extraordinary” that the shadow minister had been sacked for advocating a Brexit policy which, he said, had wide support in the party.
Fellow MP Anna Turley said Mr Smith’s departure was “disappointing” and he would be a loss to the front bench, while former cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw told Mr Smith he was “very sorry” to see him go.
The Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott however, backed the decision of her leader saying that he could not sit on the opposition front bench while advancing “a position which was simply not Labour Party policy”.
Yet her calls can best be described as hypocritical, as she has hardly added clarity to the debate in the past. As recently as November, Ms Abbott told constituents she would push for a referendum on the final Brexit deal only being was forced to clarify after that she wanted a Parliamentary vote.
Then of course there is the thorny issue of Tony Blair. The former Labour Prime Minister has been active and outspoken in his protestations of Labour’s stance on this issue and he will today reinvigorate his calls for a second referendum. Mr Blair will break ranks with his own party to say that “people say that there will be disillusion if Brexit doesn’t happen. Personally, I doubt this if it is the result of a fresh ‘say’ on the final deal. But even if true, the bigger disillusion will be when those who voted for Brexit because they feared the future shaped by free market globalisation, realise they are now conscripts in an adventure to embrace it more fully.” He will call for the “people to make the final decision on the deal,” clearly forgetting that a vote occurred in June 2016.
The division within his own party has been largely ignored up until this point but it appears the lid may be being lifted on this Pandoras Box for the Labour Party.