by Larry Elliot
This article was first published on July 21st in The Guardian.
Jeremy Corbyn is not the first leader of the Labour party to have form as a Eurosceptic. Hugh Gaitskell was so fearful of the drive for European political union that he warned about Britain ending a thousand years of history as an independent state. Clement Attlee was no big fan of what was then called the common market either.
But this was all a long time ago. Under a succession of leaders starting with Neil Kinnock, Labour warmed to Europe. In the 1980s, with Thatcherism rampant at home, the party saw Brussels as providing protection from free-market zealotry. In the 1990s, under Tony Blair, the feeling was that globalisation had made the nation state redundant.
Even so, a small number of Labour MPs remained unreconciled. They pointed out that Labour’s love affair with Europe began just as Europe’s economic performance started to deteriorate. They opposed the Maastricht treaty that paved the way for the single currency on the grounds that it would create an undemocratic central bank with deflationary tendencies.