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Corbyn is on fire with new ambition; COMMENT.

JEREMY Corbyn's Brexit speech is a major moment in the saga of Britain's exit from the European Union - and in the power dynamics in Westminster.

Labour's official position on the UK's future relationship with the EU had been cloaked in ambiguity ever since the June 2016 referendum but now Mr Corbyn has set out his desire for us to stay in a permanent customs union.

This opens up the possibility of cooperation in the Commons with likeminded members of other parties including - crucially - pro-EU Conservatives.

Downing St has been emphatic that the UK will not be in a customs union. The scene is set for an epic battle that could determine the fate of the PM.

Theresa May suffered a Brexit defeat in December when a majority of MPs voted for Parliament to have a decisive say on the final deal. That was a bruising experience but if parliament emphatically rejects her model of Brexit there would be clamour for a vote of no confidence and the potential for a general election.

One of the most striking aspects of Mr Corbyn's speech was not the text but the delivery. Not that long ago, when he had shocked the political establishment by emerging as the winner in the 2015 fourway leadership contest, he seemed ill at ease in front of the autocue.

But in last year's election it appeared that he had grasped that public appearances on a grand scale are but an extension of the grassroots campaigning he has relished for decades. On the campaign trail he exhibited a confidence and enthusiasm that contrasted with Mrs May's outings which were regularly derided as "robotic".

That confidence has only grown since the June election. At one point in his speech he stopped talking about Brexit and launched into a blistering condemnation of the role of the free market in everything from banking to trains to energy companies.

It was almost as if New Labour had never existed. Mr Corbyn is not scared of alienating Middle England; the glint in his eye suggests he may now believe he will not have to wait until 2022 to have another shot at entering Downing St.

It is far from clear that the EU would countenance the type of bespoke deal he envisages, which would grant us a say on future trade deals and allow the UK Government to support local industries through state aid and public procurement, while ending free movement of people.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was at the Airbus factory in north Wales, a favourite destination of politicians who want to be photographed at an example of engineering success outside London.

David Lidington urged the Welsh and Scottish governments to accept changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which at present is seen by First Minister Carwyn Jones as an "unacceptable attack on devolution". Brexit has the potential to ignite conflict between the UK's governments and challenge the loyalties of MPs.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 27, 2018
Words:492
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