Kevin Barron: Jeremy Corbyn probably wants Brexit to happen

Kevin Barron is the Labour MP for Rother Valley
Kevin Barron is the Labour MP for Rother Valley
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While Labour appears to have kept its Brexit position deliberately vague, one of the party’s Rotherham MPs has taken a much more straight-forward stance.

Rother Valley’s Kevin Barron has publicly backed and voted for Theresa May’s deal, making him one of only a handful of Labour rebels to side with the Government and promoting plenty of criticism from within his own ranks.

But as he talks to The Yorkshire Post in his Westminster office, he is comfortable with his stance.

“I think a no deal would be a bit of a disaster for the Rother Valley, he says.

“Clearly there’s room for improvement in areas like workers rights and things like that, but I would just hope that we can get some sort of consensus in parliament and that we can agree this deal.”

Amid increasing talk in the corridors of power of extending Article 50 or of holding a second referendum, Barron believes that voters in his area just want to see a deal agreed.

In the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham, of which his Rother Valley seat is one of three, 68 per cent of people voted to leave the EU, and for him it is time that result was honoured.

“The message you get from the streets is just get it agreed,” he says. “And that’s why I have taken the position that I have.

“It’s not perfect, but when I was negotiating locally as Maltby colliery many years ago for the miners I sometimes had to say to them - you’re not going to like everything I’m going to tell you but this is the outcome of negotiations.

“This is the end of a 40-year relationship - it’s acrimonious, it’s not everything that you want and it’s expensive and if you want to see evidence of how that happens just look in the divorce courts. These things happen when relationships break up all the time.

“My view is that what we need to do is it get the best that we can immediately and move on, because I just think that people are looking at this institution that I have worked in all these years and thinking - why do we bother electing people in there?

“Particularly when they’re saying they will honour a referendum and then they appear to be frustrating it.”

But in taking this view he is at odds with the vast majority of his colleagues and his party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has so far rejected the Prime Minister’s deal and has only recently agreed to talks on a way forward.

However, although Corbyn has been critical of the agreement that is currently on the table, many have speculated that the Labour leader’s long-standing anti-EU credentials mean he would secretly like to see Brexit delivered.

According to Barron: “Jeremy has been trying to please both sides.”

“I have known him for 35 years... and it’s on record, that he probably does want Brexit, as the Labour party wanted Brexit back in 1975.

“As a member of the Labour party the first level of activity that I did was handing out leaflets saying ‘no’ in 1975. I have personally moved on since then and I think the party has.

“But you can’t please both sides in this debate, and that is a very simple truth.”

The willingness of a small number of Labour MPs to lend May their support could eventually get the Government’s Brexit deal over the line. Does Barron see that as a problem politically?

“No I don’t think so. Ironically it was both in the Labour manifesto in the last general election and in the Conservative manifesto that we would honour the outcome of the referendum and that’s what I have been doing.

“I think numbers from the Labour side are growing. A couple of people have said to me - I won’t give you their names - we think we’ll end up voting like you did Kevin, last week, and I think that that might happen.

“Whether or not people will vote for the deal or abstain against the deal, we’ll have to wait and see. It really depends what comes back from Brussels.”

While Barron is openly backing the agreement, many of his colleagues will need more to persuade them to go through the division lobbies with the Tories the next time parliament has a Meaningful Vote.

Recent offers from the Government of investment for certain areas in return for support in the Commons has been heavily criticised, with some branding it bribery.

But for Barron, it is a chance to reshape the UK economy and ensure that areas like his South Yorkshire constituency don’t get left behind when EU cash comes to an end.

“There has been some discussions around whether on not we should be looking at the regional imbalance in the economy of the UK. And looking at shaping a model that we used to have through the European Commision, which was called Objective One.

“If you look at what Objective One did in South Yorkshire - it brought us the Advanced Manufacturing Park, a world-renowned area for aerospace engineering.

“I didn’t want us to leave, but we voted to leave and I will honour that. What I don’t want to happen is for that money that doesn’t go out to the European Commision in years to come to end up stuck down here in a fund in the Treasury.

“We need to have a means of saying how can we redistribute that and how can we get better growth in some of the regions where growth is a lot poorer than it is in the South East.

“That’s what we need to be looking at.”

In the end, that is clearly what has driven him out on a limb - the urgent need to protect jobs and livelihoods in his local area against a no deal Brexit.

“If we all fall of the end of a cliff maybe Jacob [Rees-Mogg] and Boris [Johnson]... if they land on their wallets they won’t feel the shock as much.

“I represent a lot of poorer people in the Rother Valley and I want to avoid that at all costs and that is why I have taken the action that I have done.”