You can't be against austerity and not be against Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn
The Labour leader would stand a far better chance of pulling off his economic vision if we had a final say and opted to remain in the EU
The latest example of this could be seen in the conversation below the Labour leader’s tweet highlighting the cull of 50,000 police staff together with a call for “more bobbies on the beat”.
“Maybe if we don’t Brexit we’ll have money to properly fund the police? There’s a thought,” tweeted Sarah Lee in response.
“And again... continuous silence from you Jeremy on Brexit. Although the incredible amount of money the UK is paying now for Brexit preparations & that Brexit will cost to the whole of the UK, could indeed go towards Police, NHS, & School funding instead,” Julie opined.
“Be able to afford half that many after Brexit,” said Animal Advocate.
And so it went on. And so it will go on for as long as Corbyn sits on the fence. And so it should.
Various organisations have sought to quantify by how much. At the end of last month, the Centre for European Reform, an independent think tank with offices in London and Brussels, put the number at £500m a week.
It could get worse still. Oxford Economics thinks no deal, still a very realistic possibility, will more or less double the damage that has already been done.
Even assuming Theresa May can cobble something together at the last minute and get it through parliament (good luck), the view of the Office for Budget Responsibility, nominally independent but set up and funded by government, about the future is not optimistic.
For the next five years it expects growth averaging a torpid 1.5 per cent. That assumes no global nasty emerges to kick the UK into recession. There are plenty of places from where one could come.
By way of contrast, the US is expected to motor at between 2 and 3 per cent. Numbers shmumbers. Where am I going with all this? Corbyn plans to pursue a radically different policy agenda to that of the current government if he gets into No 10, with a lot more public spending, more tax on the wealthy and on corporations, and likely more borrowing too.
He would stand a far better chance of pulling off what amounts to an economic restructuring if the UK were to have a final say and opt to remain in the EU. A £500m per week better chance? Pick any damn number you want as long as it’s big. Not only would the British economy enjoy an immediate and substantial boost, it would be stronger going forward.
Corbyn and John McDonnell would thus be able to enact their programme from a position of strength. A stronger economy means more tax receipts, more flexibility as regards spending them, more jobs, more business, more security.
It also bears repeating that there is nothing in the last Labour manifesto that would have fallen afoul of EU rules. Despite this, Corbyn seems intent on serving as the midwife of a hard brexit set in motion by a clique of hard-right Tory free-market fantasists, the sort of people who have done incalculable damage to the people he claims to represent in the past, and whose programme for the future threatens to do even worse.
We had a taster for what we may be in for a couple of days ago with the announcement by Schaeffler of plans to close the Barden Corporation plant in Plymouth within the next two years, just one year after announcing it would be investing £15m into the factory.
Not only will the taxes it pays be lost to a future Labour government, so will the payments made by the 400 people who are going to lose their jobs, and who may end up claiming Jobseekers Allowance if they can’t secure alternative employment. Plymouth’s economy will be a tick smaller as a result.
That might be just the start of it. There have been similar rumblings from other companies. They don’t want to go. Britain is, for all its warts, a good place to do business. But they have to deal with realities, rather than the fantasies of Britain’s politicians, and if they can’t get their supplies in and their goods out, they’ll look elsewhere.
Austerity has been a cruel policy that has hurt the poorest the most. Without it, or with less of it, Britain’s economy would have recovered faster from the financial crisis, and it would be stronger today. Corbyn is right to critique it.
But Brexit will only serve to compound the damage it has done, as the majority of his members, his MPs, and, increasingly, his country are only too well aware.
His Twitter critics are quite right to call him out.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here