What Jeremy Corybn could mean for Anglo-German business ties | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 26.06.2017
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What Jeremy Corybn could mean for Anglo-German business ties

Since he took over the reins of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has made rapid progress as opposition leader. His rhetoric in favor of small business is likely to benefit trade relations between the UK and Germany.

Political upsets have carried on into 2017. The election of Emmanuel Macron in France, and his extraordinarily young party, was followed by the unexpected revival of a reportedly far-left Labour Party in the United Kingdom. As such, questions need to be asked about what Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of a sizeable opposition and potentially Britain's future prime minister, could mean for business relations between the UK and Germany.

The Labour Party was all but routed in the 2015 general elections. It lost its stronghold of Scotland to the Scottish Nationalists and a great deal of ground in northern and central England to the Conservatives. Corbyn's rise as leader, after replacing Ed Miliband, was heavily contested throughout 2016, which, on top of his obvious lack of enthusiasm for the press, led to a strong media consensus: that shabby, socialist Corbyn was an anachronism in these polished, center-left times.

It was this perceived lack of widespread support that Theresa May and the Conservatives were betting on when they called an early election in the hope of expanding their majority and securing a landslide victory in British parliament.

The failure to do so stunned a nation that had projected a disappointing result for Corbyn. Labour won 40 percent of the vote to the Conservative's 42.4 percent - though because of Britain's "first past the post" electoral system Labour still remains more than 50 seats behind the Tories.

Conservatives lost their majority in the House of Commons, which obliterated any remaining confidence in the current prime minister. Corbyn's voters were predominately young, following the same trend as Remainers in the Brexit vote.

The most important takeaway from this victory was proof of a growing support base for Corbyn and, maybe, a growing appetite for Corbyn's socialist values: a recent survey from YouGov found 43 percent of those asked said socialism would make Britain a better place to live.

Inspiration for Germany's Linke

Of course, Corbyn's most immediate test will be Brexit. On this score, Corbyn is as pro-Europe as could be hoped for. While committed to Brexit (two other parties wanted a second referendum), according to its 2017 manifesto, Labour hopes to retain tariff-free access to the single market, the customs union and maintain the EU laws that would otherwise be lost with an "EU Rights and Protections Bill."

He also opposes Theresa May's controversial "no deal" approach to negotiations: the Labour manifesto states a period of "transitional arrangements" would be preferred to a quick and troublesome exit. As such, Labour makes "no commitment" to reducing the number of migrants to the UK, instead floating the idea of a Migrant Impact Fund to support the towns and cities that host migrants.

Hannover Bundesparteitag Die Linke (picture alliance/dpa/P. Steffen)

Germany's Linke hopes to have same effect as Corbyn in elections this September

Corbyn's Brexit approach may have a comparatively less tangible effect on German business. His socialist chops have impressed labor unions in Germany, and may in turn lead to more confident and legitimate trade unions here.

Corbyn's success so far has, at least, given the leaders of Germany's left-wing "Die Linke" party a hope that a left-of-center platform could win a substantial vote share in the German parliamentary elections this September. 
"He showed you can score a lot of points with a modern election campaign, doorstep visits and a social program that's very similar to ours," Katja Kipping, leader of the Linke party, told Reuters.

In Britain there is a strong tradition of Labour as the friend of the worker, even through its various iterations and including the more finance sector-friendly New Labour movement. The same cannot be said about Die Linke, at least in the Western part of the country.

Yet Corbyn's socialism is actually fairly business friendly, so much so that policy commentators are quite happy calling it a social democratic movement, and not socialism at all.

Even though Corbyn wants renationalization of many public services and generally an increase in taxes and intervention - things that, by all accounts, belong to a level of socialism rarely discussed in mainstream politics today - he has a very modern attitude toward small business: he hopes to drop taxes for the lower income bracket of businesses and reduce the number of expensive so-called "earnings reports."

This may hint at a Corbyn government with an unexpectedly liberal approach to markets and trade, which would only benefit its relationship with Germany.

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Just how likely is such a government? Jeremy Corbyn is certainly an anomaly, and this will always be a handicap as he moves now to secure votes among the older generation. In his favor, he has momentum and an all but devastated intra-party opposition.

Furthermore, his brand of social justice seems to be acquiring stronger support by the day. The apparently untenable situation in major cities, including London, has contributed to this, with the increasing (and increasingly pitiable) irony of having many luxury flats and houses, owned by wealthy foreigners, left empty while many Londoners live in squalid and, as was made tragically apparent in the recent Grenfell Tower fire, dangerously improper living conditions. There is much to be said against socialism, but its message that there exists a government which can support those in need is at the moment very appealing in Britain.

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