Brexit: Corbyn’s Cakeism; Norway Rejects “Norway”

Due to competing duties, we’ll be brief on Brexit today. The newspapers are consumed with whether Theresa May will be forced to put off the vote on her Brexit deal due to the likely margin of rejection being so high as to make her continuation as Prime Minister untenable. I doubt the mechanism for an exit next week (if her bill is rejected roundly as anticipated) would be a vote of no confidence; the DUP said it would support May if her bill failed and the Tories are highly unlikely to run the risk of a general election, although the “no confidence” timetable allows 14 calendar days to find a new PM. Even the fabulously stubborn May might accept her ministers telling her she had to resign if she lost by a 100 vote margin.

So the odds now seem to favor May putting off the vote, and running to the EU Council meeting of December 13-14. If so, this means her fallback it to try to run out the clock so as to make the no deal risk even more imminent, and perhaps also to get the EU Council to say out loud what if any the terms for an extension might be. If they are as restrictive as the tweetstorm from a BBC reporter we featured indicated, making that official would focus a few minds.

We’d really like to be Corbyn enthusiasts, given how mendacious and incompetent the Tories are. But on Brexit, Corbyn alarmingly appears to be giving them a run for incompetence. The Guardian ran an op-ed by Corbyn which is truly disconcerting, particularly when taken in combination with Kier Starmers’ deluded or disingenuous “We’ll prevent a crash-out” scheme.

We’ll turn the mike over to Clive on what vlade had already depicted as Corbyn spots a herd of unicorns and promises a pony to everyone:

This really does warrant quoting in full because otherwise the true ridiculousness of it all might escape the casual reader. Not least because you have to wade your way through 7 paragraphs — and they are long, long paragraphs — which say nothing more than an adult version of “May is stinky and her Deal is stinkyer” (having said that, I think even children would baulk at the simplistic finger pointing we are subjected to) before you get to the nub of it:

A new, comprehensive customs union with the EU, with a British say in future trade deals, would strengthen our manufacturing sector and give us a solid base for industrial renewal under the next Labour government, especially for our held-back communities. It would remove the threat of different parts of the UK being subject to separate regulations. And it would deal with the large majority of problems the backstop is designed to solve.

Second, a new and strong relationship with the single market that gives us frictionless trade, and the freedom to rebuild our economy and expand our public services – while setting migration policies to meet the needs of the economy

Does Corbyn really believe any of this guff?

“solve a large majority of the problems the backstop is designed to solve” ???

Which problems are solved, exactly, and which aren’t? This isn’t even cakeism. It’s the napkin which the cake is supposed to be served on then someone has written “check back soon for the launch of our wonderful new cake” on it, with an artist’s impression of what the cake might look like.

Trust me, this is not the full extent of the lunacy. You need to read the piece in full. But see this snippet:

Unlike the Norway-plus option now being canvassed among MPs, our plan would not leave Britain as an across-the-board rule-taker of EU regulations without a say. It’s a plan that can be negotiated with the EU, even at this late stage, with most of the building blocks already in place. The EU has shown it is prepared to renegotiate even more complex agreements than this, such as the Lisbon treaty.

We are back to the EU’s “What about ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

But a big unicorn did die today, although expect the press to keep dragging the corpse around, since some pundits may not get the memo right away. Norway rejected the “Norway” option. We’ve been saying the Efta would not want the big and very very pushy UK as a fellow member. Not only did that turn out to be correct, but it turns out Norway (just like the EU) has been saying ‘no’ and the UK has been characteristically hard of hearing. From a different Guardian story, Norwegian politicians reject UK’s Norway Plus Brexit plan (hat tip PlutoniumKun):

The UK would need Norway’s permission to join its EFTA club….But the plan was rejected by Heidi Nordby Lunde, an MP in Norway’s governing Conservative party, and leader of the Norway’s European movement. She said her views reflected those of the governing party…

Lunde told the Guardian: “Really, the Norwegian option is not an option we have been telling you this for one and half years since the referendum and how this works, so I am surprised that after all these years – it is still part of the grown up debate in the UK. You just expect us to give you an invitation rather than consider whether Norway would want to give you such an invitation. It might be in your interest to use our agreement, but it would not be in our interest.”

Explaining Norway’s fear of the UK joining the Efta club she said: “The three countries in Efta have to agree on all the regulations coming from the EU so if one country vetoes something we all have to veto which means that if the UK enters the Efta platform and starts to veto regulations that we want, this will affect not just the UK but also us as well. Part of the success we have had with this EEA agreement is for the last 25 years is that we do accept the rules and regulations that do come out of the EU, mostly because it is in our interest.

“If as I understand UK politicians do not want to be ruled by regulations coming from other countries, why would they accept a country with 38,000 citizens like Lichtenstein being able to veto regulations that the UK wants. That would be the reality.”

A member of the parliament’s economic affairs committee, she said “it is not in my country’s interests to have the UK aboard, and I cannot see how possibly an EEA/Efta agreement could be in the interests of the UK.

“As part of the agreement with the EU we accept migration and free movement, we have our own body of justice but it is compliant with the European court of justice, we accept the rules and regulations of the single market”.

She added: “It is not an option for the UK to stay inside the customs union as the UK proposes to solve the Northern Ireland border issue if you are part of the Efta platform since Efta is its own free trade bloc. We have 29 trade agreements with 39 countries outside the EU that the UK would need to be able to accept. I do not understand why it would be in the UK interests to enter into trade agreements on the basis of agreements that have been negotiated in our interests and not the UK’s.”

She said the only politicians in Norway that wanted the UK to join Efat were the eurosceptic party that wants to destroy Norway’s relationship with the EU.

Ouch. But better this happen sooner rather than later. It’s very hard to kill off the various strains of Brexit denialism.

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    1. Clive

      There is an argument going around, which I really can’t be bothered to dig around and try to find the veracity of, that the U.K. never in fact left Efta — its membership was merely superseded on accession to the EU (European Communities, as then was).

      Which is fine, but, even if true, the whole scheme still stands or falls on being able to join the EEA.

      Which Norway has just effectively ruled out.

      Hence my not being arsed to look into it further.

      In any event, parliamentarians have a whole army staffers to do this sort of thing. If they can’t muster the sufficient intellectual nous to do it, I don’t see why a blog run by three people (-ish) and assorted ne’re-do-wells like us should help them. Does the U.K. have a government, or is it just reheating the plots of various Enid Blyton books?

    2. Christopher Dale Rogers

      The UK was the driving force behind the creation of EFTA, not just a member – the reason for this is tied in with the Sterling Devaluation of 1949, which annoyed the French, who went off in a huff and combined forces with West Germany to forge Western Europe’s economic future via the Schuman Plan, which led to the Treaty of Rome – as such, 1949 is significant because economically speaking the UK lost its leadership of Western Europe, which had been an overriding priority of the Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin – of course the UK had been highly tied up with creating NATO and having a say on Marshall Aid, not withstanding trying to protect its Sterling Zone.

      I’m reliably informed by a senior British advisor of Jacques Delors that the UK would have been better off to remain with EFTA, rather than joining the EEC in 1972, so, in some quarters of the LP, their is a real attachment to EFTA.

      1. Synoia


        The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is founded by Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, to promote closer economic cooperation and free trade in Europe.

        That’s also what I remember. I always understood that De Gaulls “Non” to British membership in the EEC cause Britain to form EFTA.

        I was becoming sentient in 1960, before that I was not, and I’m not positive I ever became fully sentient. Let’s just say “more aware”.

        1. Christopher Dale Rogers


          Work on what became the European Union began with the launch of the Schuman Plan and creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the Schuman Plan of Robert Schuman the Foreign Minister of France in May 1950 was France’s response to the UK’s decision to devalue Sterling in late 1949 – the UK had promised to inform the French prior to the devolution and then failed to do so, hence from this time line two versions of Europe developed and who would lead it. Following the defeat of of the Attlee Government and Churchill becoming PM for a second time, UK policy was to undermine moves to a Federal Europe under French/German leadership, hence the establishment of EFTA, which the Tory-led UK governments pushed in the 50’s – given where the EU is now, I must say that EFTA does seem a better economic trading Bloc, however, it seemed the EEC was economically pulling ahead of everyone, hence by the early 60s the UK wanted in, which was not realised until De Gaulle had moved on in the late 60’s, with the UK formally joining in 1972.

          1. disillusionized

            EFTA only works because the EEA forced it to change it’s internal dynamics – the UK’s attempt at a intergovernmental structure was always doomed to fail.

  1. larry

    I missed the Corbyn stuff that Clive reports on. All I can say is, OMG. I have thought before that Corbyn was not running on all cylinders. He appears to be unable to take himself out of his cognitive comfort zones and begin to think. Truly dire.

    I saw the Guardian piece. Norway have been saying that they are not really interested in the UK becoming a member of Efta for almost two years now. The UK elite must be truly thick and thickly insulated from reality.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’ve always found the UK discussion of the ‘Norway Option’ idea bizarre. The EEA/EFTA members have a cosy little relationship with the EU that works because the EU doesn’t mind giving a nice deal to such small, friendly neighbours, and those countries are small and modest enough to realise they can’t fight the fact that the EU will set the agenda for all trade deals. The notion that everyone would be happy with the UK joining in was always a very long shot. Once again, we see evidence that the entire UK political and media establishment simply does not understand how Europe works.

      1. Oregoncharles

        See the Christopher Dale Rogers thread just above. The UK helped found the EFTA. Next question: did the UK actually LEAVE the EFTA when it joined the EU? If not, Norway’s “No” might have no effect.

        I’m personally agnostic on the issue, as was Clive, above; but remarkably, there might be a reason for all the talk about that option. I wonder if anyone actually knows?

        1. shtove

          The UK remains member of the EEA upon Brexit, but that has no practical benefit without something like EFTA.

          My view of Labour is that their position will only crystallize once May is gone. At that point Labour has to calculate whether the next PM is to be Corbyn or a Tory. Meanwhile, Corbyn is serving up scrambled eggs to keep as many voters as possible at his breakfast table.

          1. Grisefox

            The EEA Agreement is interesting – it’s an International agreement as opposed to an EU Treaty and, while under its Article 127 a signatory is required to provide 12 months written notice of intent to leave, the Government hadn’t done so by the last day on which it could (29 March, 2018).

            Instead, Article 124(2) of the draft Withdrawal Agreement of 19 March, 2018 states:

            “during the transition period, the United Kingdom shall be bound by the obligations stemming from the international agreements concluded by the Union, or by Member States acting on its behalf, or by the Union and its Member States acting jointly as referred to in Article 2(a)(iv)”

            This text is replicated as Article 129(1) in the current WA of November, 2018.

            This implies that the UK remains an EEA signatory post-March, 2019, and may be intended to offset a breach of the official position on EEA qualification, i.e. a signatory must be an EU or EFTA Member State, allowing the UK to remain in the Single Market during the Transition Period.

            The wider implications and also its future significance are discussed by George Yarrow at

        2. Christopher Dale Rogers

          The UK abandoned both EFTA and Commonwealth trading preferences when it formally joined the EEC in 1972 – these issues were raised during the 1975 EEC Referendum. Further, given the UK was a driving force behind EFTA, which was seen as a counterweight to the EEC, the secret negotiations with the EEC (France & Germany) starting with Macmillan certainly reinforced notions of ‘Perfidious Albion’ with our EFTA partners, so Norway is just giving blowback.

          What’s most interesting with regards both Norway and the UK is North Sea oil and gas, which both nations were able to tap by the early 70’s – I remember the changeover from coal gas to natural gas (North Sea gas) and economic developments in both nations since that time – Norway doing a better job than the UK I’m afraid, indeed Thatcher squandered this once in a lifetime inheritance.

          1. Oregoncharles

            thanks for the clarification. I wondered, but it’s way out of my bailiwick.

            The North Sea gas and oil are also a factor in a Scottish divorce; the way they were handled might be worth a whole article. One point is that they make Norway a petrostate, like Russia or Venezuela – it’s a smaller factor for Britain as a whole. That has pitfalls, as Venezuela discovered. It would be nice to know what Norway’s doing about it. (Massive hydroelectric, would be one way.

      2. Grisefox

        Isn’t it the case that EFTA-EEA states are a separate trade bloc and have negotiated c40 FTAs of their own (most recently with Indonesia)?

        Also, the article on the Norway option referenced states the views of a pro-EU politician – separately there was a tweet from the head of the Norwegian equivalent of the CBI with similar views. These views differ from those of the Norwegian PM Ms. Solberg in a statement on 27th November.

        While I’m most definitely no expert in Norwegian politics I suspect the timing of the release of the recent negative statements.

  2. larry

    Rev, if that is the origin of his ‘new’ idea, then this supports my contention that he doesn’t think and adapt to new circumstances. Possibly he is aided in this by Seamus Milne.

  3. Marshall Auerback

    “Better for this to happen sooner rather than later” – Sooner? As Lunde said, the Norwegians have only been saying this for 18 months! Neither the British press, nor the pols themselves, seemed to have listened. Typical UK arrogance

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      “Sooner” in terms of it hitting the UK press before the presumed Tuesday vote. The UK reporting has been so uniformly awful that this is par for the course.

  4. Nik

    Corbyn sounds exactly like Boris did shortly after his resignation. The question is whether, unlike Boris, he would actually try to pick up the ball and run with it if presented with the opportunity. He would undoubtedly fail just as May has, but in that event maybe someone would have the gall to stand up and admit that the only sensible option at this stage is to attempt to use parliament’s sovereign power to withdraw Article 50.

    You have to admit that even if the politicians understand the truth behind the UK’s situation, there seems to be precious little to gain and much to lose by speaking it. Cakeism is well alive among the public as well, given what we saw in recent polls.

    1. fajensen

      From my perspective, living here in Sweden, an A.50 withdrawal will be the worst outcome.

      This time, the UK media, trolls, and politicans has really gone overboard with sneering disdain for everyone and everything European.

      We are asked to forged all of that!? Be content with the EU institutions filling up with protests voters UKIP’ers, EDL’ers Farange wannabes and probably worse, that will never abandon their ambitions of destroying the EU.

      The political costs are unacceptable, I think.

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers


        Given your words, I take it then you favour perpetual austerity and a neoliberal wonder world as brought to you by the cuddly teddy bears in Brussels, this despite the utter contempt our Brussels friends, namely the Euro Elite, have for the common man and democratic outcomes in all EU states?

        1. disillusionized

          As someone living in Sweden, i can inform you that we do not have any austerity.
          We also have a left wing government, we don’t have the EURO, we don’t have to get the EURO, (we held a referendum on it and all, still not overturned, must be something about having a functional political culture). So please stop thinking that your feelings about the EU, Brussels, or the EU elites have any purchase in the rest of the EU.
          Also, at the moment, none of our left wing parties wants to leave the ‘Neoliberal’ EU.
          Also, i’m with Fajensen, it really would be best for the EU if the UK leaves, regardless of how that is done – I’m heartily sick of brexiteers.

        2. fajensen

          I don’t care what you think I should be thinking and I don’t really care for your projections either.

          The “Markets Only” EU is a British fetish, so Happy Brexit to everyone!

      2. PlutoniumKun

        If this was an episode of Yes Prime Minister, Sir Humphrey would no doubt be advising the PM with withdraw A.50 on the very last day (just to annoy the Europeans), and then set up a Grand Commission into a new referendum, made up of a selection of the great and good who will be paid on the understanding that they will only get their pensions and knighthoods if the Commission takes at least 10 years to issue its report.

    2. disillusionized

      There is some hope that if Labor takes over, they will do a hell face turn and blame everything on may – it might work.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Didn’t the Norse essentially conquer England? I don’t think that was just the Danes. At one point, the three were all one kingdom – briefly It was, however, a long time ago.

    2. Ignacio


      The most important thing I have learnt about Brexit is this term “cakeism” which I like very much.

  5. UserFriendly

    Fascinating very large sample YouGov poll that polled the 3 real options, deal, no deal, no brexit (Couldn’t poll NI because Census difference). had them rank preference and find the condorcet winner. No Deal has the least support and you end up with deal vs no deal at a statistical tie. They break it down by constituency and deal wins by a mile (260 con, 110 Labor). Gerrymandering? BUT if you look at only the supporters of the party that holds that constituency every conservative constituency supports the deal and every constituency of every other party supports Remain. So Labour’s pandering to Labour leave voters has really been pandering to just a handful of their voters and the rest of tory voters in their constituency. They even have a section about Labour leavers migrating to remain and tory remainers migrating to leave. Quite interesting.
    Not very detailed toplines.
    Short but much more informative full results.

    1. vlade

      This was my argument for some time back. And worse yet for Labour, some remainers migrate to LibDem (or I’d say return, they voted Labour in 2017 because it was clear LD was not a viable option, and hoped for Labour to stand up to Tories), meaning that Labour can lose some marginals.

    1. larry

      He’s been getting a lot of stick for not clarifying his position. That said, his own deal is ridiculous. See Chris Grey’s blog post for today — The ‘meaningful vote’ debate: still riddled with pretence, incoherence and fantasy. It came out yesterday.

    2. flora

      Interesting article. I don’t understand what McDonnell meant by this bit:

      Mr McDonnell said: “We believe that next week, when Theresa May’s deal is voted down, Parliament will have the opportunity to explore other routes.

      “We’ve offered a route that could gain sufficient support and that does mean reopening negotiations rapidly.

      “It happened with regards to the Lisbon Treaty when a couple of countries had a referendum and took a different view.”

      I recall Ireland voted down joining the EU in a referendum, which jeopardized the entire project. So, of course, Ireland was “allowed” a do-over vote, a 2nd referendum that passed. I don’t see how Brexit existentially threatens the EU project in the same way as did countries voting originally not join. The EU is now established, not struggling to get started.

      1. DaveH

        I recall Ireland voted down joining the EU in a referendum, which jeopardized the entire project. So, of course, Ireland was “allowed” a do-over vote, a 2nd referendum that passed.

        I think you’re confusing two different events. Ireland’s original accession back in 1973 required a referendum (as it resulted in a change to the Irish constitution) – that was an 83% margin in favour of joining.

        What you’re probably thinking about is the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. That was initially rejected in 2008 with 53% against.

        Talk to your average eurosceptic, and you’ll be told that the EU told the Irish to vote again and it’s evidence of how inflexible and anti-democratic they are.

        In actual fact, the treaty was amended to take on board the Irish concerns, Fianna Fáil were then elected to Government on a manifesto including a commitment to hold a referendum on the revised treaty.

        Which they then held and which passed on an increased turnout with 67% in favour of ratification.

        My bit in bold – any hypothetical future UK second referendum (I know, I know…) will obviously not be anything like as clear and decisive a result.

        1. flora

          Yes, thank you. I was talking about the Lisbon Treaty. I’m mystified why UK pols keep mentioning this. I don’t understand UK politics, obviously.

          And, as you say, there’s no guarantee of a second Bexit vote having different results. Or, imo, a 2nd vote having much influence on current EU rules.

  6. Mickey Hickey

    The British Empire never recovered from WW1. The Brexiters are not motivated by leaving the EU they are motivated by the sugar plum fairies and leprechauns of re-establishing the British Empire. Corbyn is as deluded as the average Brit. When a majority of a country’s population are living in fantasy land it is not sensible to expect a rational outcome. I of course am totally unbiased since we got our land back in 1922 only 275 years after it was confiscated.

    1. Synoia


      The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is founded by Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, to promote closer economic cooperation and free trade in Europe.

      That’s also what I remember. I always understood that De Gaulls “Non” to British membership in the EEC cause Britain to form EFTA.

      I was becoming sentient in 1960, before that I was not, and I’m not positive I ever became fully sentient. Let’s just say “more aware”.

    2. Synoia

      I believe you need to read McMillian’s “winds of change speech,” per the British Empire.
      It’s time was up, the English understood this, and its lands were given back to its people, after some violence.

      The United States is the last remaining 19th Century Empire, and there are no indications it will go quietly into this dark night.

      Personally I’d project Climate Change will end nearly all current countries, probably in some incredible level of violence, with barriers similar to the US’ current efforts to keep out the dispossessed – caused by some countries meddling in other countries’ internal affairs…

      I find it ironical when the US complains endlessly about Russian interference in its elections, after it’s rich interfere in the UK, as documented by the Guardian, and it’s intelligence agencies and military interfere in many countries around the world.

      “Divine Right” perhaps? or is it just “Manifest Destiny”?

      1. Samuel Conner

        Perhaps it’s just widespread sociopathy among the ruling elites. Don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.

        It’s hard to see how the present relatively tranquil polities of the world can survive the stresses that seem likely to come in future.

  7. David

    I wonder if, like a lot of politicians, he isn’t looking ahead to the next stage – “I had a better plan but nobody listened” etc. It hardly matters what he says now, so long as it doesn’t stir up division within the Labour Party.

    1. Christopher Dale Rogers


      Corbyn actually did have a better plan, one advised by Yanis Varoufakis in 2016. Remember, Corbyn and McDonnell refused to share any platforms with the Tories, which put them at odds with the neoliberal Remain camp, who’s leadership was all closely associated with either New Labour, or Blair’s clone, namely Cameron.

      Throughout the Referendum campaign JC gave a honest assessment about the EU and campaigned to remain, although a Remain with a clothespeg on its nose, namely it was a Pan-European Reformist campaign, which, lest we forget, was ignored by the MSM.

  8. Tomonthebeach


    But a big unicorn did die today, although expect the press to keep dragging the corpse around, since some pundits may not get the memo right away.

    Beautiful prose that made it hard to stop laughing at your all-too-true metaphor.

  9. papabaz

    Much as I admire Yve’s analytical powers and Clive’s insight, I think they (and most other commentators) miss the critical point about Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy, and they certainly underestimate his political and personal strengths.

    First, Mr Corbyn’s primary objective is to unite a deeply divided (and wounded) United Kingdom, and specifically England, just as he united the Labour Party around his leadership (with the exception of a few outliers on his backbenchs). It would be useful to consider his response to a question posed during the Referendum campaign (for which, contrary to legend, he campaigned up and down the country, holding more meetings than any other Remain campaigner). When asked by a TV interviewer what score he would award the EU out of ten, he paused thoughtfully before replying, “Seven…. maybe seven and a half” – and when you think about it, that’s where the 15th to 90th percentile of the country stands if pressed. Mr Corbyn was and is a rational remainer and reformist, and that is the essence of Labour’s EU/Brexit strategy and, unlike Clive, I believe this “guff”:

    “A new, comprehensive customs union with the EU, with a British say in future trade deals, would strengthen our manufacturing sector and give us a solid base for industrial renewal under the next Labour government, especially for our held-back communities. It would remove the threat of different parts of the UK being subject to separate regulations. And it would deal with the large majority of problems the backstop is designed to solve.
    “Second, a new and strong relationship with the single market that gives us frictionless trade, and the freedom to rebuild our economy and expand our public services – while setting migration policies to meet the needs of the economy”

    Unlike Clive, Yves, Jonathan Freedland, Martin Kettle, Uncle Tom Cobbley ‘n’all, I expect M. Barnier’s team already sees merit in the idea and has already started working on an alternative text for the Withdrawal Agreement, just on the off-chance, like.

    Second, Mr Corbyn is a Parliamentarian of great knowledge, experience and wisdom, and probably the single most skilled electoral politician in the country. Certainly, he is one of the very few capable of persuading an audience. Indeed, his career suggests that he considers the central functions of a democratic politician are to listen, persuade, and either compromise or agree amicably to differ but to carry on talking anyway.

    Third, Mr Corbyn is principled, honest, and a democrat who believes in the importance of mandates determined by electoral contests. Hence, amongst other things, the “Seven…. maybe seven and a half” statement. He is also seen to be principled and honest which to many electors seems to be a source of weakness and contributes to the impression that Mr Corbyn lacks leadership skills. Mmm… Remember the Labour Party before Mr Corbyn became Leader? Look at it now. See the difference at every level? See the difference in election results?

    Fourth, this is because, despite his gentle, kindly and patient nature, etc, Mr Corbyn is a realist and the most ruthless Labour Party Leader since, well…. its creation. Ask all the former members of the Blair-Brown governments and the New Labour drips he inherited from Mr Miliband. Ask former (and one or two existing) members of the Labour Party machine at every level.

    Fifth, he has balls of stainless steel with added tungsten. Remember all the PMQs with his sulking backbenchers behind him trying to make him crack and force him to resign by showing their obvious contempt for Mr Corbyn, week after week, immediately rushing out to brief the press about another humiliating session for the Leader of the party which helped to elect them. Think about it. How many political leaders can cope with that sort of pressure? Could you? Mr Corbyn can and did, choosing to run confidently for re-election and winning pretty handily by any standards.

    That’s why I believe Mr Corbyn’s “guff”, and why any Labour Party campaign, whether in a General Election or a second Referendum, will be built around Mr Corbyn and the five points I’ve outlined above and each can be easily illustrated using videos made during the course of parliamentary career and his first Leadership contest right through to the present. And, Mr Corbyn will win either, or both, campaigns. He’s the Man.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Help me. I don’t like sounding mean-spirited but this is the sort of misguided thinking that got the UK in this mess and prevented it from engaging in the war-level planning needed to keep Brexit from being a disaster.

      Your claim that the EU is willing to negotiate is yet another unicorn. Let me turn the mike over to Jonathan Freedland, who shellacked Corbyn’s piece in the Guardian today, in t’s crunch time for Labour. Empty posturing on Brexit will no longer do :

      Normally, an opposition could enjoy a week like the one that’s coming. It could sit back, relax and break open the popcorn as Theresa May walks into a Commons defeat on the policy that has defined her premiership….

      But these are not normal times. For one thing, the stakes are too high. …

      Labour can shape the course of Brexit. The downside is that if this goes badly, it won’t be just be May and the Tories who are blamed: Jeremy Corbyn and Labour will be in the dock, too.

      All of which means the era of “constructive ambiguity” has to end next week….

      Not that you’d know it from the noises the party is still making. Take the article in the Guardian on Friday by Corbyn himself. It spoke repeatedly of Labour’s “alternative plan” for Brexit, by which Britain would have all the benefits of the single market – such as “frictionless trade” – with none of the unwanted costs. This is a plan in the same sense that I “plan” to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon next year. It is not a plan at all, but a desire for something that is demonstrably out of reach.

      The EU could not have been clearer or more unbending on this point since the vote in 2016 (and long before). The only way to get frictionless trade with the single market is not by forging “a new and strong relationship” with it, as Corbyn writes, but by being in it, as we are now. Equally, you cannot hope to leave the EU and simultaneously retain “a British say in future trade deals” done by the EU. To argue otherwise is to offer the same cake-and-eat-it, unicorn-filled impossibilism peddled by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. That it comes with a red rosette on its lapel does not make it any less dishonest. Which is why even one of Corbyn’s most senior shadow cabinet colleagues told me the leader’s article was “poor”, while its central claim – that there is some new, alternative, backstop-free deal just waiting to be negotiated with Brussels by Labour – is “nonsense”

      The fact that Corbyn is failing to rise to the challenge and is lying to the British public about what can be accomplished is concrete evidence that your claims about his integrity and leadership skills are false.

      As for his ability to take pain, that may be true, but that is also one of Theresa May’s most prominent qualities. It’s helped her resist making desperately needed course corrections. So is that perhaps why Corbyn is also persisting in a strategy doomed to failure?

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers


        By all means critique Corbyn, and indeed the Labour Party with regards Brexit, however, you hit a low when you utilise persons such as The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, who, from July 2016 has had zero positive to say about Corbyn, or for that matter political activists like myself attracted to the idea of a decent country.

        As a reminded, The Guardian is now dismissed in many quarters on the UK as the propagandist rag that it is – its fall epitomised by its Front Page Fake News article on the founder of Wikileaks – however, please don’t take my word for such matters, so, here’s a compilation of bile The Guardian has engaged in since Mr Corbyn began gaining credibility in leftist circles in the 2016 leadership election – so anything from Freedland must be taken with a pinch of salt, a very large pinch of salt indeed!!!!

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t like coming down on you, but you have not made a case. All you’ve offered is an ad hominem attack, which is logically bogus (plus against the site’s written Policies). You need to deal with Freedland’s argument. He is 100% correct that the EU will not do anything further save make cosmetic changes to May’d deal. And that means that what Corbyn wrote is not just false but dangerously misleading. This is as bad as the nonsense Boris was peddling.

          We don’t do tribalism here. It is not decent to promise something that cannot possibly happen on the biggest decision the UK will be making for decades. It is every bit as irresponsible as what the Tories have been doing.

          1. Christopher Dale Rogers

            If we are discussing ad hominem attacks, then your choice of UK commentator from The Guardian, namely one Mr Jonathan Freedland is one hell of a class act to follow as far as Jeremy Corbyn is concerned and the Labour Party itself since the leadership election of 2015 – Freedland has been relentless in his attacks, many of them highly personalised and without foundation, hence I actually supplied a link detailing these excesses, which are numerous indeed.

            Again, I have zero issues with any objective person critiquing the Labour Party’s stance on Europe and Brexit, I do take exception when the person utilised by you to drive home a message is someone guilty of some of the most partisan commentary I’ve had the pleasure to stray across, which is why many of us on the Left have abandoned The Guardian completely, preferring Twitter, FB and Blogs like NC.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              You still have not rebutted the point Freedland made. It does not matter one iota whether he is a relentless critic of Corbyn if he is right and you have yet to provide an iota of evidence that anything in the article I quoted is wrong.

              Do you have any comprehension of what ad hominem means? There is nothing ad hom about this Freedland piece. Calling out Cobryn in pointing terms on his Brexit op ed is fully warranted. You have been unable to make an argument on the merits.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          Much as I share your loathing of Freedland, he is well connected and knows what he’s talking about on certain subjects. And on this he is exactly right – Corbyn is digging a grave for himself and the Labour Party (not to mention the country) by his stance. The time has come for him and Labour to face up to what Brexit really means and how they will deal with it. If he truly means what he’s written about it, then he is just as out of his depth as May, and people will eventually sense that.

    2. Clive

      I’m no unquestioning Corbyn superfan, but I am a member of the Labour Party mostly as a result of Corbyn being elected leader. And I do participate in Constituency Labour Party meetings which, again, I don’t always agree with everything everyone says (and it is a broad church, so there’s rarely unanimity). When Momentum send round the begging emails, I’ll happily chip in a few — often more than a few — £’s. Lastly, and most importantly, I not only bought from the Momentum shop, but send, Jeremy Corbyn Christmas cards, which I delight in posting to my most trying right-wing nut job friends.

      But, sorry, Corbyn is not making any sense whatsoever here.

      He’s making so little sense, I’m assuming he has some underlying motivation. If not, he has lost his mind totally.

      But assuming this is either a tactic or a strategy, it fails on either measure. If it is a tactic, say to be allowing some talking points and to give an appearance of having some options for Labour in respect of how to counter the obvious call “What would Labour do that’s better than May’s Deal?” it cannot stand in the face of even the merest cursory challenge. Corbyn has met with Barnier for a one-on-one discussion. Barnier will have told him that, if he wants the U.K. to be a member of the Single Market and the Customs Union, it must accept Free Movement and CJEU jurisprudence. It will also have to accept all EU trade deal negotiations constraints. The EU said this on day 1 after the referendum result. For Corbyn to carry on like this isn’t a fact only makes him look clueless. Being a clueless party leader is not a winning tactic. And while I’m certain Corbyn is only motivated by the highest aims and is a very personable and persuasive negotiator, Barnier is legally compelled to take the positions he is taking.

      If, conversely, it is a strategy to stir up already fermenting Conservative party division, in the hope that this will result in a general election in which Labour will end up in government, it is equally flawed. If he goes to the country with the crazy wish list of Brexit outcomes, then that particular chicken will end up coming home to roost. He’ll be in Downing St. (I’m joining Jeremy in the Land of the Magic Sparkle Pony, briefly here, to assume an election can be called and concluded before 29th March 2019). Wherein he will have to — immediately — ‘fess up to not being able to deliver what he promised. In about, oh, I don’t know, five minutes, all the chaos which is engulfing the Conservatives will hit Labour (which, let’s not forget, is composed of a parliamentary party with some scores to settle of its own against Corbyn as unfortunately a fair few Blairite MPs will not be unseated or deselected). But with the added spicy sauce that there’d be — at the very most — a couple of weeks to go until Exit Day and Corbyn will have to stitch together either a formal BINO (Customs Union and Single Market membership) which the EU will be able to support or else bite the bullet and try to get the corpse of May’s Deal reincarnated and through the House.

      If it fails the “this is just so dumb” test as either a tactic or a strategy, it isn’t only plain-vanilla harmless nice-but-dim dumb, it’s max-strength damaging self-harmful dumb.

      Sadly, being nice, while admirable, doesn’t turn a lousy idea into a good one. Jeremy is nice. You’re nice, I’m sure. I’m nice. Yves lives in New York so doesn’t do nice, but her heart is in the right place. What is needed to be a successful politician — and to try to wrestle something other than a disastrous mess out of Brexit — isn’t niceness. It’s realism. Corbyn needs to get real. Like now.

      1. larry

        Sadly, Clive, I have to agree. But let us not forget the possibly insidious influence of Seamus Milne, the man who hates not being forgotten.

  10. Christopher Dale Rogers


    Despite your valid critique of both Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer, just a reminder that in late September at the Party Conference the Labour Party’s policy towards Europe and Brexit was detailed and voted upon, it was essentially hijacked by Mr Starmer who bounced JC into a bit of a corner regarding a second Referendum – although, I accept Labour’s Policy is sketchy with every option from a Party perspective is left on the table.

    Regarding Corbyn’s Guardian Article, I’m unable to access that as will not read any material provided by The Guardian anymore, even if written by JC. That said, and as persons have been commenting on your article Corbyn was at a meeting of European Socialist Leaders in Lisbon giving a speech on Brexit, which has been well received by European peers – essentially, JC is keen to postpone Brexit and see if he can facilitate something less dire than Ms May should he be Prime Minister, here’s the link to that speech issued within the hour:

    With regards you use of the word ‘cakeism’, as far I see it the cakeism exists, but it exists within Brussels rather than Corbyn, who’s articulating desires it seems most Europeans would agree with. Of course, all your excellent coverage has dealt with the EU as a negotiating institution and the UK, however, whilst these negotiations have been ongoing, matters on the ground across Europe have been in flux, namely the Centre, be it in France or Germany, is imploding, that is, the neoliberal economic orthodoxy of the past 40 years is being challenged across Europe by new political Groupings from the Left and the Right, Italy being the litmus test currently.

    Whilst the EU and the neoliberals in general had the upper hand with Greece, its a different ball game with Italy, and a very different ball game with France & Germany. in France we have on going demos now spreading across Europe, whilst in Germany an unknown has just replaced Ms Merkle as the leader of the Christian Democrat’s, meaning Ms Merkle is on her way out.

    Last year in the UK our own demented Centrists were lamenting why the Labour Party did not have its own Macron in charge of it, whilst heaping praise upon that political upstart – well, that worked out well, he’s despised by a majority of his own electorate, for as he’s been prancing across Europe and the Global stage his own nation has been suffering greatly. Any yet the structural economic Reforms he’s undertaken are Treaty obligations via the EU – funny that!

    So, as far as Cakeism goes, I think its the EU as a whole that seems to engage in Cakeism, namely ignoring real events on the ground within its member states, most of which are driven by austerity and neoliberal economic prescriptions that form the heart of the Lisbon Treaty, and any tinkering with said Treaty as far as the EuroZone is concerned since the EZ Crisis – all charted by this site.

    As a good European myself opposed to the economic orthodoxy that has created havoc in working class communities across the EU, I’m rather alarmed that the EU’s economic prescriptions that are implemented at the nation state level are giving rise to fascism – see local elections in Spain where actual fascists have won local government seats this week, never mind the growth of the right in Greece and the Nordic Nations.

    Cutting it short, whilst I agree the bulk of the EU states at a National level are aghast at the UK and on the whole support the EU-negotiated deal with the UK, the fact remains most of these Nations are headed by Centrists who’s positions are under threat from the Left and the Right. Which raises the question how can the EU continue being a bastion of neoliberalism, given its neoliberal economic prescriptions are causing crisis for many and giving birth to forces that will be its own undoing – so, the UK may be ahead of the curve if matters take a turn for the worse in both France and Germany over the next 12 months – interesting times indeed!

    1. Tim Smyth

      As I have said since the day Macron was elected his primary goal is to smash and steamroll Brexit Britain and it does not really matter whether it is May, Corbyn, or Johnson in charge. My advice to Macron is to do what it takes to “calm” the yellow vests right at this moment but then to shift towards Brexit day on March 29th as the ultimate battle royale between Macron’s neoliberalism and the far right/far left in both the UK and France if their is a “no deal.” i.e. prepare to drive over a no deal Brexit Britain like it was tin foil on March 30th.

      Second the neoliberal prescriptions of the Lisbon Treaty are not of the Lisbon Treaty but in fact the original Treaty of Rome notwithstanding the fact that the 1950s were supposed to be the golden era for socialism. Perhaps the real original sin of Europe was West Germany’s decision to abandon capital controls in the mid 1950s.

    2. disillusionized

      ” essentially, JC is keen to postpone Brexit”

      And the EU will never, ever, ever, ever, extend this to facilitate UK unicorn fantasies.

      ” With regards you use of the word ‘cakeism’, as far I see it the cakeism exists, but it exists within Brussels rather than Corbyn, who’s articulating desires it seems most Europeans would agree with”

      But this has nothing to do with brexit, and more importantly, not a single person from the EU is behind him on brexit. There is near universal support for the EU negotiating position.
      Virtually nothing of the rest of what you say pertains to this topic, and is wrong, too, but that’s an aside.

      “– see local elections in Spain where actual fascists have won local government seats this week, ”
      First, “Social democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism..”.
      Second, Vox did not rise in Andalusia on the back of economic issues, it rose because of the immigration policies pursued by the socialists on the federal level.

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers


        Did you bother to listen/watch Corbyn’s speech to fellow European Socialists in Lisbon this evening, which was streamed live but little mention of it made in the MSM, Corbyn had a warm reception from other Europeans, or don’t regular persons and those on the Left count?

        As for any fantasy with regards a postponement of Brexit, any change of government in the UK prior to March would result in a delay, limited, but a delay nonetheless.

        As for notions of unicorns, as far as this Poster is concerned the UK elected to leave the EU and that this decision was reinforced in the GE of 2017 when both major UK Parties campaigned promising to uphold the 2016 decision – so out means out, meaning the only thing on the table should have been a ‘transition period’, one somewhat longer than anything found under Article50, which seems a onerous timeline, onerous on purpose.

        As for dismissing the rise of the extreme Right, and indeed fascism across Europe as associated with immigration concerns is wide of the mark, a great deal more is at play, much of which is tied up with economics and a penchant for Western Nations to destroy the viability of other nations in North Africa and the Middle East – as such, did not realise the Spanish Federal Government was disrupting nation states close to its borders. Alas, we learn something new everyday!

        1. flora

          Your second para is interesting if that’s the thinking in Parliament.

          This headline in Dec. 8th Times –

          MPs hatch cross-party alliance to dump Theresa May

          MPs are lining up to sack Theresa May if her Brexit deal is rejected on Tuesday. Labour is seeking to join forces with rebel Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party to bring the prime minister down by voting against her leadership.

          Although the vote would not be binding it would place enormous pressure on Mrs May to resign. Conservative MPs reported “febrile” communications yesterday from those jockeying for position before a potential contest. Among those expected to run are Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Amber Rudd, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove.

          If accurrate, is the story designed to shore up support for the WA lest the clown car appear?

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          This is irrelevant to Corbyn’s nonsensical position on Brexit? So what if he gets treated well when he gives a good speech. That has absolutely zero to do with what the EU would do in negotiations if he were PM.

          Regarding “transition period,” there is no transition period set in A50. It’s to be negotiated.

          And yes, A50 was set up to make exiting hard. The UK might have taken more note of what that would mean before sending in the notice and doing more planning and prep.

        3. disillusionized

          By paragraph:
          No, but it doesn’t matter, as the European council has 4 socialists in it – of out 28.
          Portugal, Malta, Slovenia, and Sweden.
          A powerful coalition indeed – Not that it matters, as their party affiliation might influence the means by which they achieve their interests, but would not alter their state’s interests.

          Whatever happens, the UK must be out of the EU before May 2019, as then MEP’s are elected – more importantly, MEP’s have their final session at the 18th of April, so any delay is in practice not going to be longer than 20 days.

          Article 50 is not a transition period, it’s a negotiation period, and yes, the deck is intentionally stacked against the leaving party, virtually all consitutions are written to the advantage of the one(s) writing it – Not news to people who, you know, Read.

          I did not dismiss the rise of the ‘extreme right’ – I tried to tell you that calling everything to the right of J.C fascist isn’t a good idea.
          As for the immigration bit – No you are categorically wrong.
          Vox was polling at nothing, and then, the right wing government fell, and the socialists took over and instituted a new migration policy, for geographical reasons, this hits Andalusia the hardest, and then Vox gets 12 seats. It has nothing to do with economics.
          And the whole spiel about ‘western nations destroying the viability of states in the MENA region” – Doesn’t matter, I agree we shouldn’t do it, but voters often have contradictory demands, in any case, Off topic – please learn to stick to one topic.

  11. Christopher Dale Rogers

    Actually, the neoliberalism now etched in stone within the EU Treaties were instigated via the Single European Act, which was a massive revision to the Treaty of Rome – lots of supply-side stuff contained in the SEA driven by of all persons one Margaret Thatcher. Within a pure UK perspective, our experience of modern neoliberal economic prescriptions began with the Sterling Crisis and consequent IMF emergency loan of 76, which came with many strings attached, namely a massive reduction of State expenditure, this austerity, combined with the fallout from the Oil Crisis resulted in the infamous Winter of Discontent in the UK in late 78 to early 79. And of course, the 79 election gave us Thatcher – it is the supply-side structural reforms, now etched in marble in EU Treaties, particularly those associated with Monetary Union, that are causing massive issues. I must concede, as Bill Mitchell has detailed, that the EEC/EU has been obsessed with monetary union since the late 60s, whilst Jaques Delors, in conjunction with Thatcher, ensured we have a wonderful neoliberal entity, one out of kilter with political realities emerging across Europe since the GFC of 2008. Oh, and I’m in favour of Capital Control’s particularly having witnessed first hand the Asian Financial Crisis of 1998.

    1. Tim Smyth

      I don’t want to be to argumentative but didn’t the Single European Act in part lead to the removal of customs controls on the NI-ROI border which in turn led to the Good Friday Agreement.

      **I am increasingly of the view that NI is an anchor chain around the politics of the UK. At some level Labour and Corbyn are more consistent in supporting Irish unification but as a practical matter I have seen little sign that Labour and Corbyn are actually doing anything to make this happen.

      As to capital controls again I think the acid test is whether anyone in the UK whether they are Clyde, Christopher, or Corbyn are willing to impose capital controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and deal with the practical consequences of doing so. If you don’t impose capital controls between NI and ROI well imposing capital controls between the rest of the UK and anywhere else is useless because all the capital will flow out of the UK through NI and the ROI.

      I did see Corbyn speech in Lisbon and he did get a good response but is anyone in that room going to change their allegiance away from the Republic of Ireland towards Corbyn based on ideological affinity. The biggest a Corbyn govt has on this front is they probably woudn’t be dependent on the DUP like May. On the otherhand Corbyn and Labour is very highly likely to be dependent on SNP votes which is whole different can of worms.

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers


        The majority I kick around with are certainly not ‘Unionists’, thus most believe Ireland should be united, which kinda nullifies concerns about Capital Controls between NI and Ireland, further, the Good Friday Agreement is sacrosanct on the Left, which unlike our Tory chums, has zero intent of disrupting either the GFA or annoying our Irish neighbours.

  12. ChristmasAtRU

    I’m thinking it’s “Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn” time! Yves? Lambert? (like the letter to Soros?)



  13. dingus

    I read Corbyn’s Guardian article, I saw the worrying cakeism interpretation and was worried. However, there is also another possible interpretation, Corbyn’s plan as described in the article may be to remain in the EU and pursue more active political engagement within it, perhaps with some token concessions from the EU to, for example, put some minor items up for consideration in the European Parliament.

    Reading with this interpretation and looking between the lines the article makes sense (more than the impossibilities in the other interpretation), the ambitions are pretty achievable as it’s essentially describing the existing EU relationship, even such parts as “migration policies to meet the needs of the economy”, as it’s well documented that EU migrants are a benefit to the UK economy. Also, at no point in the article does it talk about delivering Brexit or anything similar.

    This is obviously speculative (and perhaps wishful thinking on my part) but the potential mechanism of forcing and winning a general election, withdrawing Article 50 due to “needing time to clear up the Tory mess and sort out a better plan”, then a further referendum at a later date to lend political legitimacy, could be viable. Politically it would be very delicate but Corbyn’s sole ambition is to get power to implement his own agenda of radical domestic reform, it’s clear he has no great passion for the EU and would likely take a pragmatic solution of any kind if it enabled his domestic agenda. Keeping a “No Brexit” card close to his chest at this point would be logical, declaring it before the full scale of the “deal or no deal” disaster unfolds would still be politically unwise.

    The simple explanation remains cakeism but maybe there are some clues in the article beyond just cakeist fantasy.

      1. dingus

        Clive’s is a good comment with many fine points. However, if we indulge the concept that an election is possible before March 29th (I agree with Clive that it’s “Land of the Magic Sparkle Pony” but only because the Conservative party will do almost anything to avoid it rather than a lack of time, there’s plenty time yet), in the event of a Labour victory, we are underestimating the political power of a new government’s honeymoon phase, where blaming all the ills of the day on the previous government is the international standard. It will certainly be easy to sell the “great Tory mess” idea if Brexit brings down the government in the next few months. This makes Article 50 withdrawal not just politically possible but pretty much a necessity to avoid no deal.

        If there is no election and we get some watery deal, it doesn’t really matter what Corbyn says now, he doesn’t seem to care either way about the EU anyway, the can will be kicking along the road for a good few years yet. If we get no deal then a Labour landslide at the next election seems pretty likely, albeit at great economic cost.

        I don’t see Corbyn as much of a grand strategist and there are a number of flaws in the “the plan is essentially to remain in the EU but don’t tell anybody” approach, namely you’re going to have to tell at some point and deal with the political backlash. But I do see him as a genuine and honest person, so I think his article would be broadly something he believes, which does probably make him a worrying cakeist, but it’s not the only option. To me the only believable interpretation of his article is if it is describing a ‘No Brexit’ position.

        (I realise I’m late to the comment party on this thread and probably this won’t be read by many, so thank you Yves for having read and replied to my post.)

  14. Knute Rife

    Corbyn is in opposition, and opposition knows it can say whatever it wants because it really doesn’t matter. And if Labour is smart, it will stay in opposition until the Tories are so thoroughly saddled with Brexitfail that their backs break once and for all.

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