Leading article

Jeremy Corbyn needs to review his Brexit strategy

The performance of Jeremy Corbyn throughout the Brexit saga has perturbed large sections of traditional Labour support and caused consternation among those across Ireland who have always been well disposed towards his party.

There can be little doubt that the low point came last December when Mr Corbyn attempted to ignore the overwhelming case for a backstop arrangement on the border in Ireland which had already been firmly endorsed by the remaining 27 EU nations and was at the heart of the withdrawal agreement put forward and then abandoned by the hapless Theresa May.

Instead of accepting that, in the view of almost every Irish nationalist and a significant number of unionists, the heartening advances made since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement were at grave risk and must be protected, Mr Corbyn somehow felt that the time had come to seek the backing of Arlene Foster's ten Westminster MPs.

He said that the DUP `dislike the backstop for very good and very sensible reasons' but his blatant pitch for an unlikely deal swiftly faded away.

As alarm within the ranks of Labour activists increased, Mr Corbyn then said last week that he had engaged in an `awful lot of listening' to his grassroots and belatedly decided that the UK needed to hold a second EU referendum.

He said that, as every rational observer has already concluded, a no deal outcome must be stopped, but his analysis was noticeably lacking in detail.

Mr Corbyn has finally conceded that the EU debate is changing rapidly, with even the DUP acknowledging that a no deal Brexit would seriously damage the Northern Ireland economy after an official report predicted that 40,000 jobs here could go in those circumstances.

If Labour had a different leader, such as Keir Starmer or Emily Thornberry, it can be expected that, rather than astonishingly languishing behind the most inept British government in living memory in a series of opinion polls, the party would be on the brink of heading back to power with an enormous majority.

The evidence is that Mr Corbyn, as someone who has declared a strong interest in Irish affairs throughout his time in public life, has miscalculated his Brexit stance badly and needs to review his attitude urgently if he is serious about winning the next UK general election.

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