Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has made his first appearance in the national debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU), ahead of the referendum in June.
With recent polling showing that he is more trusted on the issue than the Prime Minister David Cameron, Remain campaigners are hoping that he can inspire the people of Britain to vote to stay in the Union.
Mr Corbyn used his speech to argue that the EU was imperfect but that there is a “strong socialist case” for voting to remain within it, and that “collective international action through the European Union” is needed in tackling the big issues of the day. He insisted that he now thinks reform of the EU to be the best course of action.
But he hasn’t always been the flag-waver for the Union that he is today, as the following quotes, taken from debates held over a period of more than two decades, demonstrate:
July 2015 – “Brutal”
“If the EU becomes a totally brutal organisation that treats every one of its member states in the way that the people of Greece have been treated at the moment, then I think it will lose a lot of support from a lot of people.”
June 2015 – “Colonies of debt peonage”
“[If] Greece leaves both the eurozone and the EU its future would be uncertain, but at least it could be its own. … There is no future for a usurious Europe that turns its smaller nations into colonies of debt peonage.”
January 2015 – Undemocratic
Public opposition to the EU’s TTIP treaty is “a cri de coeur for democracy and for the right of people to elect a Government who can decide what goes on in their country.”
April 2013 – “Worst of all worlds”
“Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, has no problems integrating rail services with Germany, France and Italy, and I do not think that any other country should have any problems either. What we have is the worst of all worlds.”
February 2011 – Human rights abuses
“We have EU trade agreements with a number of countries that include a human rights clause that has not been enforced or effected. Is it not time for us to look again at the whole strategy for the region?
May 2005 – “Simply crazy”
It is morally wrong [to] pay farmers to over-produce… then use taxpayers’ money to buy the over-production, so it is already a double purchase, and it is then shipped at enormous public cost across the seas to be dumped as maize on African societies. … The practice is simply crazy and must be stopped.”
October 2003 – Morally Unjustifiable
“[W]e are now exporting 40 per cent of the world’s sugar and subsidising it to the tune of €500 per tonne. That is not justifiable in any moral or other sense. We are driving cane sugar producers in Africa and elsewhere out of business so that European sugar can be dumped on their markets.”
May 1993 – Opposition to Maastricht
“I am sure that [Labour MPs] will vote against the Maastricht treaty again tonight, primarily because it takes away from national Parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers”
March 1993 – EU Army
“[W]e are moving towards a common European defence and foreign policy. That being so, one must ask who proposes it, who controls it and what it is for? … Title V states that the objective of such a policy shall be “to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests and independence of the Union”. What exactly does that mean?”
As part of the whitewashing of Mr Corbyn’s past stance on the EU, he has also deleted a number of blogs on his personal site which are critical of the EU. One, titled “The Plight of a Forgotten Land” included the following quotes:
“The EU, to its shame, concluded a special trade agreement with Morocco for fishing rights that includes the waters off occupied Western Sarah. In doing so, it authorised the plunder of natural resources on a grand scale with no benefit at all the Saharawi people.”
He added that Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara “involves the gross abuse of human rights and theft of natural resources – and the EU is directly responsible.”
A spokesman for Labour Grassroots Out said that it was “disappointing” that Mr Corbyn has been deleting comments and articles critical of the EU, adding: “People respect Jeremy as a man of principle and this behaviour does not meet the standards expected of him.”
The spokesman said he believes Corbyn has been forced into a pro-EU stance by his party colleagues, against his own personal judgement.
“Jeremy Corbyn has been put in a very difficult position by the Labour party. He is a lifelong opponent of the undemocratic EU and, in private at least, this view has not changed,” he said. “It is hard to credit the idea that he sincerely believes the EU can be reformed – Cameron tried and failed.
“Labour’s approach is causing a real risk of serious electoral damage in the North, with UKIP the big beneficiary. Had the party adopted a more open approach to debate, this would have been far less likely.”