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How the Labour breakaway will affect Brexit


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The big news in British politics this morning is that seven Labour MPs have broken away from their party to form a new movement, which they call the Independence Group.

Seven MPs may not seem like many. But in the tribal world of British politics, where party discipline is dominant, a breakaway even on this scale is a rare and notable event.

The seven — Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith and Gavin Shuker — have not broken away simply because of Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on a wide range of issues, most notably on anti-Semitism, has been a major factor. 

As one of the MPs, Ms Berger, put it, Labour has become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to stay.

However, Mr Corbyn’s reluctance to back a second Brexit referendum has been one of the key factors dogging these MPs.

The seven have clearly taken the view that Mr Corbyn is pro-Brexit and will never be won round to the idea of a second referendum. And they may well be right.

Mr Corbyn’s recent letter to Theresa May suggested to many MPs that he is determined to see the UK leave the EU come what may, and at most is minded to settle for something closer to a Norway-style relationship instead.

Leading figures in the People’s Vote campaign have not fully given up on the idea of converting Mr Corbyn.

As one spokesman put it this morning: “Over the weekend, we were encouraged by comments by John McDonnell that Labour would push for a vote on its own Brexit proposals by the end of this month.”

Even so, many commentators feel this breakaway may be a fatal blow for the second referendum campaign.

As ITV’s Robert Peston argues this morning: “The call for a referendum will be closely associated with those who have set themselves up as the enemies of Corbyn and his socialist project.”

In other words, Mr Corbyn cannot possibly end up backing a second referendum without being seen to capitulate to the splitters.

Further reading

Parliament’s Brexit drama will play out in three acts

“When the curtain eventually comes down, there will be two likely consequences. The first is some political reconfiguration as bits and pieces of the Labour and Conservative machines, currently held together with string and sticky tape, start to fall off. Whether they can be welded together, working with my party, will be the next big political project.” (Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, in the FT)

We’ll back the deal if the people are allowed a final say

“This is our compromise: we are prepared to facilitate the passage of the prime minister’s deal through the House of Commons if the deal is put to a confirmatory ballot of the British people. We believe this is the way forward because Brexit started with the people and therefore should end with the people.” (Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, in The Times — paywall)

Where is UK labour migration policy heading after Brexit?

“Relying on a rotating pool of temporary workers implies higher ‘churn’ within the communities where migrants live. Practitioners in local government often point to negative impacts of churn on communities and the capacity to deliver local public services. Higher turnover implies costs for employers taking on new migrant recruits, and reduced incentives to invest in training them if they have only a short time horizon over which to recoup their investment. So there are certainly trade-offs involved in taking this approach.” (Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, on The UK in a Changing Europe)

Hard numbers

Germany’s longest continuous economic boom since the 1960s is starting to run out of steam. Guy Chazan’s Big Read looks at how business confidence has fallen as Germany’s export machine braces for global shocks, which include Brexit.



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