26th November 2018
Jeremy Corbyn outlines a Labour Brexit at the CBI last week
UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, follows her party conference Dancing Queen embarrassment with another Abba themed pitch today, as she appeals to the British public and the House of Commons to take a chance on me. The Brexit deal negotiated over the last two years with the EU is, May tells us, the best possible deal. It is a rare moment of concurrence with President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also desperate to get a deal concluded, who has made it clear that this is the only deal on the table.
It took leaders of the EU 27 states less than an hour to sign off on the deal and the mood music suggests that there is little if any room for manoeuvre as far as the rest of Europe is concerned. For May, in a premiership which has been defined entirely by Brexit, it is a case of this deal or no deal at all. She clearly sees the endgame in terms of her time as both PM and Tory Party leader and has decided that she will stand or fall on the ground she has marked out.
The deal will go before the House of Commons this side of Xmas. All of the politics and Parliamentary arithmetic at the moment suggests that it will not be passed. The fascist bully boys of the DUP, whom May has leaned upon to prop up her government, have branded the deal “pitiful and pathetic”. They are unhappy about Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK due to its land border with the Republic of Ireland but are essentially scared that the deal opens the way to a United Ireland by the back door.
May herself has vowed to defend the fiction of the so called United Kingdom, a defence of the historic partition of Ireland, but the DUP do not regard this as enough assurance. The pro-Brexit European Reform Group, led by the anti-charismatic Jacob Rees-Mogg, are equally concerned by the defence of the union issue, as well as the timescale on any transition period, and would rather see a no deal scenario with the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules than a deal which gave the EU any say beyond 29th March 2019.
The much vaunted challenge to May, which Rees-Mogg and his plotters have trailed for months has still failed to materialise, betraying either a lack of nerve or a lack of numbers in their ranks. While it seems likely that they could muster the 48 ‘letters’ needed to trigger a leadership contest, the 150+ votes needed to oust May seem less likely to be forthcoming. Without a clear leader, who could command majority support even amongst Tories, the pro Brexit faction are worried about handing the keys of No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn.
In his speech to the CBI recently, Corbyn set out the key elements of what he has described as Labour’s “sensible” approach to the Brexit issue.
Instead of the temporary customs arrangement May has signed up to as a backstop, to prevent a hard border in Ireland, Corbyn has underlined Labour’s backing for a permanent customs union.
Corbyn has been quite emphatic that,
“This is a bad deal for the country. It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds. It gives us less say over our future, and puts jobs and living standards at risk.
“That is why Labour will oppose this deal in parliament. We will work with others to block a no deal outcome, and ensure that Labour’s alternative plan for a sensible deal to bring the country together is on the table.”
Corbyn has also stressed the need for workers’ rights and environmental standards to be protected to prevent a “race to the bottom”, a live issue given that EU membership has seen a proliferation of low paid jobs and zero hours contracts across the UK.
Corbyn has also called for “a strong single market relationship that allows British business continued access to European markets for both goods and services – while also ensuring we have the powers to support our public services and industry and transform the economy in all our regions and nations.”
With the Commons vote now confirmed for 11th December the ground is likely to move quickly. Support for Brexit within Labour’s ranks is by no means solid, with a cohort led by Chuka Umunna seeking to press for a second referendum, rather than accepting the result of the first. A lack of discipline in Labour ranks could certainly complicate the Parliamentary arithmetic in the short term and even jeopardise the chances of a Labour government being elected.
There are those in Labour ranks who would rather see a pro Remain Tory government than a pro Brexit Labour, such is their lack of class awareness. Now is the time for Labour to hold firm to its present position, defeat the shambles which is the May government, then from a position of strength in government, negotiate a Brexit deal which works for the people of Britain, not just its banks and corporations.