Theresa May has urged Members of Parliament to back her deal, no doubt hoping that they’ll be coming back to Parliament feeling merrier and more festive. I must say, after a little time away from Brexit over the Christmas period, the whole situation does feel a little different. I’m not sure whether it’s simply the fact the issue has been less prevalent or whether the looming threat of a No Deal Brexit has finally struck the politicians who were planning to vote May’s deal down.
In her New Year message, the Prime Minister has asked MPs to support her deal so that the UK can “turn a corner” and put this period of turmoil and disruption behind us. She acknowledged that the 2016 referendum was “divisive” but that 2019 could be the year where we put our differences aside and move forward together.
And it seems like Corbyn was listening, because today, the Labour leader said that Theresa May should return to Brussels and get a new deal with a full customs union that his party could support. Now of course, we know Mrs. May can’t get a new deal. We also know that the British people would be betrayed if May opted for a full customs union option with the EU – but it shows that Corbyn is worried about the possibility of not leaving the EU in at least some form.
A life-long Brexiteer, Corbyn will want to see at least some action taken on Europe, and I suspect he knows that unless he is able to support some kind of deal then his party will turn their back on Brexit entirely. He’d be right to fear that, too, as almost 90 per cent of his party’s members would opt to remain in the European Union through a second referendum, according to a new survey. In a study from the Party Members Project at Queen Mary University of London, which looks at the attitudes of British political parties, it was found some 88 per cent would opt for remain in a second referendum. It also found that 72 per cent of party members think Corbyn should support that referendum.
Corbyn may have watered down his views on Brexit, but he’ll at least want some kind of separation – and if he wants to achieve it then he’ll have to back May’s deal. It’s as simple as that.
So could 2019 really be the year that the parties put their differences aside and move together with May’s deal? Well, I suppose it depends on what kind of reassurances Mrs. May comes back from Brussels with. If any. We have just three weeks until her deal is put to the vote in the Commons, and if she can’t provide any new assurances, Corbyn is going to have to find some new excuse to support her in the Commons vote. Either that, or he’ll have to become a fully-fledged Remainer and reject the will of the people completely.