Back to the start: Labour antisemitism and customs union membership

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The Sunday Times made for grim reading yesterday. Its front-page story reported that leaked emails showed Labour members investigated for blatantly antisemitic comments – including “Heil Hitler” and “Jews are the problem” – have still not been expelled after over a year, and others found to have made disgusting statements about Jewish people were let back into the party. According to the report, the emails reveal that Jeremy Corbyn’s office has been involved with “at least 101 complaints” despite claims that any such interventions do not occur.

In response, a Labour spokesperson said: “This is another seriously misleading Sunday Times story, full of wrong figures, inaccurate claims and complete falsehoods. The selective use of leaked emails has excluded information in the same email chains showing the opposite of what is alleged in the article.”

Yesterday afternoon, the Jewish Labour Movement did not opt to end its 99-year affiliation to the Labour Party. But it did almost unanimously pass a motion of no confidence in Corbyn, who JLM described as “unfit to be Prime Minister”. Their new parliamentary chair Ruth Smeeth, who is replacing ex-Labour MP Luciana Berger, has vowed to “stay and fight” in the party. Read our full write-up of Sunday’s events here.

Today, the focus is back on Brexit. Following Theresa May’s ‘fireside chat’-style video, which was seen as laying the ground for compromise, there is more optimism that the government is prepared to concede on Labour’s main demand – a UK-EU customs union. The Prime Minister is under pressure from Leavers in her cabinet and party not to give way, but it is difficult to see what other options are left for her.

If full customs union membership is on the table, the question is whether Corbyn’s four other demands are ready to be met. And if so, the pressure is on the opposition party. Will the Labour leadership be prepared to infuriate shadow cabinet members such as Tom Watson and Emily Thornberry, over 80 Labour MPs and the majority of party members, by agreeing to a deal without the condition that it is put to a public vote? Or will Corbyn lay down a new red line demanding a ‘confirmatory ballot’, despite his personal opposition to the idea, as well as that of his key allies? Both main leaders face decisions this week that are likely to cause frontbench resignations, and could even see more MPs quit their parties. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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