Jeremy Corbyn still hasn’t come to the table to talk with Theresa May. This makes it clear that Corbyn isn’t interested in a deal with the European Union. He’d rather take Theresa May down so that he can replace her, win a general election, and try and get his own deal with the EU – one that includes a brand-new customs union. He’d rather betray the people on his own terms, than team up with Theresa May.
Corbyn has asked all his Labour MPs not to participate in any of May’s Brexit talks until she rules out no deal – an extremely damaging move for May that would give the upper hand to the EU and almost guarantee she obtained few new concessions. The full text of Corbyn’s message to his MPs was obtained by Sky, and it reads:
The Prime Minister has offered to open talks with Opposition Parties, however, I have been absolutely clear that any starting point for talks about breaking the Brexit deadlock must be on the provision that the threat of a disastrous “no deal” outcome is rules out. This is a position that has now been adopted by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.
I urge colleagues to respect the condition and refrain from engaging with the government until “no deal” is taken off the table.
It seems like the behaviour of a petulant child. For the last two years Corbyn has wanted to be a part of the negotiations, and now when he finally has the opportunity to do so, he’d rather cross his arms and refuse to have any involvement. I do wonder whether this is a sly move on his behalf, in an attempt at forcing the government to opt for No Deal. We know he’s a secret Brexiteer, and it could be a smart move if he’s thinking this far ahead. It’s just as likely that he’s hoping that standing in May’s way will result in her leaving government and calling a general election. Given her stubbornness, I don’t see that happening any time soon.
May, of course, is urging Corbyn to come to the table and negotiate. She needs all parties to get involved, and importantly, she needs Labour on board. She’s unlikely to make any significant progress with the SNP or Lib Dems – so it’s Labour she needs to please.
In a letter to the Labour leader, May explained that ruling out no deal was an “impossible condition” as it wasn’t in the government’s power to actually do it – which is true, and not true. No Deal is the default position, but the government could negotiate with the EU to cancel Brexit. That, she won’t do. That’s the only way to stop No Deal. The only alternative is a deal, which can’t be achieved while Corbyn refuses to sit down and talk.
A new plan agreed by the Prime Minister and other parliamentary parties will be published on Monday, and a full debate on the plan will be scheduled for Tuesday 29th January. This will also be the date of a vote on the deal, giving the UK just two months to get the deal agreed with the EU and written up into legislation.
What’s interesting about all of this is that, while I doubt very much that any new deal will deliver the Brexit we voted for, this situation has technically strengthened the Prime Minister’s hand in negotiations with the EU. We’d previously been told by Barnier and Juncker that they were unwilling to renegotiate the deal. Now they know that Parliament won’t approve it, they’re being forced to sit down, renegotiate, and listen to what MPs are saying across the party divide. This strengthens the UK’s hand, but it doesn’t mean we’ll get a better Brexit.
Our MPs will simply use this strengthened hand to renegotiate a deal that keeps us tied to the EU. Brexit won’t happen unless May is forced to leave without a deal, against her own will.