This week, our Deputy Political Editor Daniel Reast takes on Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal of a sensible ‘alternative plan’ to Theresa May’s controversial Brexit Deal with the EU.
Choosing a source for this week’s roast was surprisingly difficult. Although the week of Westminster tomfoolery provided an ample prospectus of potentially spurious claims, there were so many differing opinions that I was lost in a dense thicket of rhetoric.
Luckily, Sunday has provided a perfect serving with gravy – testing the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal for an ‘alternative plan’ for Brexit.
- Name: Jeremy Corbyn.
- Job: Leader of the Opposition, and MP for Islington North since 1983.
- Political Party: Labour.
- 2016 EU-Ref Side: Remain.
- Voting Record: House of Commons.
- Affiliation: Traditional ‘Bennite’ socialist.
- Claim: Proposes a sensible ‘alternative’ to Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
- Source: Labour Party press release 18/11/2018.
This week’s target comes from Jeremy Corbyn’s upcoming speech to the CBI Annual Conference on Monday. The press release includes details of what Labour will promote in the event of Theresa May’s deal not being passed by the House of Commons.
Three policy changes to May’s Withdrawal Agreement are proposed: a permanent customs union, guarantees to rights and protections, and a “strong single market relationship” for goods and services. These three each have questions over their potential to pass in the Commons, but also whether they are a tangible route to take. The question however is not of their success as a policy, but whether they can even be achieved.
After Theresa May signalled to EU negotiators that the deal was finally drafted, leaders of EU countries were pleased of a completed negotiation. Michel Barnier, the lead EU negotiator for Brexit, urged MPs to take “responsibility” and agree to the deal. The President of the European Council also motioned towards a finalised deal to be signed off on 25 November in a special Brussels summit. However, preliminary calls by EU leaders such as Barnier and Tusk were met with the turbulence of last Thursday and a string of Cabinet resignations. Barnier doubled down on his encouragement on Friday, after Theresa May suffered threats of a no-confidence vote and the deal not passing through Parliament. Even the ‘Mutti of Europe’ Angela Merkel joined to nip any talk of renegotiation in the bud.
Realistically, Corbyn would receive a big shock when he arrives in Brussels only to be told he’s not allowed in. From a EU perspective, the negotiations have already passed their deadline of October, and have been met with anger and contempt from UK leaders. The recently resigned Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab decided on a blistering comment piece for the Sunday Times, speaking out against the EU “bullies” and their “predatory” behaviour.
Any movement in the UK that suggests a potential renegotiation will be met with denial from the EU, who after all are the larger partner in this transaction. The Guardian’s Sunday editorial was a pertinent depiction of the UK establishment’s failure to consider the position of the European Union.
Alas, the first hurdle for Corbyn is a height too high to conquer. His prospect of altering Theresa May’s deal would need more months of talks in Brussels and an extension to Article 50 for comfortable breathing room. The Article 50 extension possibility has already been floated to EU negotiators, but in July the EU disclosed they would not extend Article 50 unless there is a dramatic shift in UK politics. A general election or referendum were given as prime examples, which many in Parliament are already pushing for.
Labour’s policy is to push for general election if Theresa May’s deal is incapable of passing through the Commons. This leads to a laborious web of political and constitutional actions that would not provide Labour with any scope for an election.
For this ‘alternative plan’ to even pass the chequered flag, Labour would need to command their bill through the house. Sir Keir Starmer is battling to find a parliamentary mechanism whereby MPs can intervene on a failed government bill and allow Brexit to be softened to their liking.
Once again, this falls foul of whether the EU would re-enter into a negotiation without any assurance of the agreement being a tangible success for both sides. Even if Labour were to command a bill or amendment with their Brexit policy at its core, would MPs vote for it? It is highly unlikely that Labour’s Brexit would command a majority, especially given the now-prominent supporters for a People’s Vote. The Guardian believes that at least 120 MPs are supporting a referendum which has the potential to grow in the event of Labour’s policy not producing its desired general election. Tom Watson has also discussed a growing possibility for a referendum due to the weakness of the Conservatives and their divisions.
After last week’s constant refreshing of webpages and the exciting 10 Downing Street door livestream, anything could happen with this Parliament. BBC Breakfast reporter Chris Mason was just as dismayed as many people are, even believing Mr Blobby would have an equal shot at predictions. Probably the most insightful comment of the last three years!
This Labour policy has been known to change, and though the party conference managed to secure a somewhat pragmatic approach, anything could happen in a week. But unfortunately for the Labour leader, his approach is unlikely to get on the Eurostar without a public vote pushing the train to Brussels.🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)