Rethinking Europe

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn Opts for Trump

Theresa May’s main opponent sees economic nationalism and crass protectionism as the answer to Brexit.

Credit: Garry Knight - www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • As if Brexit wasn’t bad enough for Britain. As an alternative to the go-for-broke Tories, the country now faces a back-to-the-future Labour Party leader who embraces economic Trumpism.
  • Jeremy Corbyn sees economic nationalism and crass protectionism as the answer to Brexit.
  • Corbyn’s Little England protectionism would almost certainly be illegal under existing EU competition laws. That doesn’t worry Corbyn much – he views the EU as the monster of rampant global capitalism.
  • For today’s Labour leaders, Brexit evidently is a chance to return to Labour’s leftist yesterdays.

As if Brexit wasn’t bad enough for Britain. As an alternative to the go-for-broke Tories, the country now faces a back-to-the-future Labour Party leader who embraces economic Trumpism.

Jeremy Corbyn has laid out a plan to bring back barely disguised protectionist policies to curb imports and boost national manufacturing preferences.

Corbyn argues that the British economy has not benefitted sufficiently from the devaluation of the pound sterling in the post-Brexit phase because cheaper imports came into the country.

His answer is to remove competition from foreign firms tendering for public contracts and ensure they went to British firms.

Jeremy Corbyn, incorrigible socialist

This is vintage Corbyn. The one point one has to concede to him is that he is consistent. He is still stuck in the notion of 1970s socialism in one country.

Back then, the Labor Party’s left wing drew up plans to nationalize the top 200 firms and bring in state planning to build a socialist economy in Britain.

The fact that it didn’t work in the 1970s doesn’t faze Mr. Corbyn. He’s the incorrigible type. Even if his past prescriptions failed, he is convinced that reality will eventually turn his way.

Wrong on just about everything

Corbyn also doesn’t know his numbers. There has been a renaissance of British manufacturing. This, however, was not achieved as a reflection of national economic brilliance.

Rather, this renaissance came about as a result of the UK being ever more closely integrated into an EU-wide division of labor in producing goods. This beneficial relationship will likely vanish with Brexit.

Corbyn is also completely wrong on the benefits devaluation. The repeated devaluations of the pound sterling in the last half century have never led to a surge in British exports.

In fact, the champion exporters of Europe like Germany or the Netherlands have always managed to achieve global sales success on the back of a strong currency.

Indeed, Europe’s best exporter in per capita terms is Switzerland – this despite having to sell in the world’s strongest currency, the Swiss franc. Switzerland, according to latest available figures, exports $36,321 per head, compared to the UK’s $7,378.

Trump as Corbyn’s soul mate

In his speech outlining his new protectionist policy, Corbyn said that “The next Labour government will bring contracts back in-house. We will use the huge weight of the government’s purchasing power to support our workers and industries.” This is where Corbyn, the supposed leftie, joins ranks with Donald Trump.

This time-honored protectionism was rubbished by Adam Smith in the 18th century, but it has never stopped surfacing. It exists in the United States with Buy America legislation and President Trump is re-orchestrating national protectionist themes with his tariffs on European goods and other threats to world trade.

There is plenty of evidence of dumping in the world economy – selling good produced at below the cost of production and other manipulative trade behavior, notably from China. But these commercial transactions often involve North American or European firms that take advantage of China’s authoritarian regime and its lack of core labor and human rights standards.

Corbyn’s Little England protectionism

Corbyn’s Little England protectionism would almost certainly be illegal under existing European Union competition laws and its rules. But that doesn’t worry Corbyn much. He still views the EU(!) as the monster of rampant global capitalism.

No wonder then that Corbyn has in the past hinted that Brexit should be seen as a potentially leftist project. Now we know why. A Corbyn government in Britain would begin discriminating in favor of made-in-Britain goods and services.

One might have thought that attacking Theresa May on Brexit and the toxic effect this will have on the British economy would be the main preoccupation of the leader of the opposition at the present time, especially as there is no likely general election before 2022.

But no, for today’s Labour leaders, Brexit evidently is a chance to return to Labour’s leftist yesterdays. To the ever retro-minded Jeremy Corbyn, it’s all about still finding a path to national economic socialism.

This is how Corbyn’s mind works: If it didn’t work in the 1970s, it’s high time in the 2020s.

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About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexit No Exit: Why Britain Won’t Leave Europe.” [London]. Follow him @DenisMacShane

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