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Neil Kinnock accuses Jeremy Corbyn of ‘serious evasion of duty’ over single market vote

2 min read

Neil Kinnock has accused Jeremy Corbyn of putting the livelihoods of the people Labour is meant to represent at risk by refusing to back membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) after Brexit.

The former Labour leader said Mr Corbyn was guilty of an “infantile leftist illusion” that membership of the European single market prevents British governments from taking steps to boost the economy.

By not joining the EEA, “lethal damage would be done to automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, engineering and other industries,” as tariffs would inevitably be imposed on UK exports, Lord Kinnock wrote in the Independent.

“In short, the hurt would be greatest among the very people our party was established to represent," Lord Kinnock said. "The resulting corrosion of growth and incomes would further shrink revenues for the vital public services. 

“That’s not a scare from Project Fear. It’s happening now, in this post-referendum devalued, misruled economy and we’re not even out of the single market yet.”

Lord Kinnock was one of 83 Labour peers who defied Mr Corbyn to vote for a House of Lords amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill backing EEA membership.

He said: "I do not break the whip lightly. I respect our Labour leadership in the Lords and I value loyalty. But I have also said that the virtue, in excess, fills graveyards.

"In this case, not continuing in the EEA would mean endangering – sacrificing – thousands of skilled and decently paid jobs and, with them, the life chances of countless families and communities."

Mr Corbyn's office has made clear that Labour MPs will not be instructed to support EEA membership when the issue returns to the House of Commons.

But Lord Kinnock added: "We would certainly not be betraying Labour heartlands by staying in the EEA after leaving the EU. Voters were never, of course, asked this question. 

“Some, doubtlessly, wanted to leave at any cost while many were led to think they could leave at no cost.”

Not all of Lord Kinnock’s ire was reserved for Mr Corbyn. He also hit out at Theresa May and accused her of leading an administration where “the bizarre is normal”.

He called on Labour MPs to used the edict to “break the grip of the Moggista and DUP hard right on this Government,” and it was in the national interest to do so.

“They are the only people who have “taken control” since June 2016,” Lord Kinnock wrote. 

“In the national interest, they must be dispossessed. It would be a serious evasion of duty if Labour did not seize this chance to protect our country from the rockslide of hard Brexit."

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