The disagreement at the top of the Labour party is one of the most powerful things standing in the way of stopping Brexit. Corbyn’s comments in Der Spiegel demonstrate that he is working hand in glove with the Conservatives to deliver their ideological Brexit. While the contradictory comments that followed from the Labour Brexit spokesperson, Keir Starmer, demonstrate yet again that the Labour party are as divided as the Tories on the issue. Never in recent history have the Opposition party failed so miserably at providing an opposition.
Labour simply cannot go on riding two horses. Both Momentum, the organisation which put Corbyn in place, and the Blairite wing of the party are now arguing that the people must have the final say. And the country feels the same way: 3.3million of those who voted Leave in 2016 now support calls for a people’s vote.
For years now, the Labour frontbench have managed to dodge questions about their Brexit policy, contradicting themselves and each other. Corbyn’s lacklustre campaign for Remain in the 2016 referendum should have been evidence enough that he was willing to sell out his Europe stance if it meant a whiff of power. He is willing to shift according to whatever position he thinks will get him into Number 10 fastest, not according to what is legitimately best for the country.
The Labour infighting is particularly mind-boggling and infuriating given that their supporters overwhelmingly back a people’s vote. Their members now support giving the people the final say by a margin of nine to one.
Brexit can be stopped. And the Labour party can be integral to stopping it. Liberal Democrats will work with those from all parties to make a public vote happen. The country will not thank Corbyn when our NHS is plunged into further crisis and food prices skyrocket all because he couldn’t find it in himself to stand up to May’s catastrophic Brexit plan.
Labour frontbenchers such as Starmer, Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry, and Jenny Chapman have all given conflicting Brexit positions in the last 72 hours. We’re now in the farcical situation where the Tory Government are facing more opposition from their own MPs and Ministers than they are from the official Opposition. The resignation of ministers including Jo Johnson and Dr Philip Lee and the vocal interventions by former ministers Justine Greening and Amber Rudd, all calling for a people’s vote, have highlighted the hapless efforts of the Labour leadership.
Having come so close they can almost taste Brexit nirvana, the Brexiters now just need Jeremy to help them get May over the finish line - and so far, Corbyn has been only to happy to oblige. Yet May’s deal will not meet Labour’s six Brexit tests. It cannot possibly meet them. So what will the Labour leadership do when it comes to a vote? They have tied themselves into an all-encompassing knot on the issue, a knot which it will be impossible to untie without the leadership itself coming undone.
When it comes to a vote on the deal in Parliament, Corbyn will have to decide which side of history he wants to be on. Will he dig his stubborn heels in deeper, refusing to vote against May, or could he finally find it within himself to provide an opposition and do what is right by the UK?
Brexit can be stopped. It can be stopped through a people’s vote with the option to remain in the EU. Liberal Democrats are committed to fighting to give the people the final say on whatever shambolic deal May comes up with. May’s deal will pale in comparison to what we have as members of the EU. The benefits cannot be matched. It’s time for the Labour frontbench to stop their Brexit squabbling and back the Liberal Democrats in calling for a people’s vote.
Vince Cable is the leader of the Lib Dems and MP for Twickenham