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Analysis

Corbyn mustn’t fall for May’s gimmick

by Hugo Dixon | 02.04.2019

When the Labour leader meets the prime minister to discuss Brexit, he should tell her to ask the EU to delay Brexit at next week’s summit for long enough to achieve something useful. With the UK set to crash out on April 12, this is not a moment to play games.

Theresa May came up with another wheeze today after a seven-hour Cabinet meeting. She wants Jeremy Corbyn to agree a Brexit deal with her, which they would jointly put to Parliament. Fat chance of that. He’d be torn to shreds by his party if he agreed her deal; she’d be hung, drawn and quartered by the Tories if she accepted his plan.

May knows this. That’s why she has a fallback idea – that she and Corbyn should agree a run-off between a number of different Brexit ideas. They would agree to back whichever idea MPs liked most.

That’s another hopeless scheme. The prime minister seems to want to stitch up the process so it gives her the answer she wants. In particular, she wants Brexit done and dusted by May 22. That wouldn’t give enough time to put any Brexit plan to the people.

If there is ever to be another round of “indicative votes” in Parliament, it needs to be an open process without preconditions. And MPs must be free to rally around a new compromise option that could unite them not divide them – and not close off the option of putting the least bad form of Brexit to a confirmatory referendum.

Unless May agrees to such a process, Corbyn should just say “no”. The prime minister doesn’t have any other good options.

She doesn’t want to crash out with no deal next Friday. Indeed, she her herself said tonight we need extra time – although she seems to want too short a delay to be of any use. The EU probably wouldn’t agree such a useless extension anyway as it would store up trouble for them too.

The prime minister might try to bring back her deal in the next few days without Labour’s approval. But after it was shot down last Friday for the third time in a row, it would be doomed to failure.

And then there’s an election, which some wilder heads in Downing Street are muttering about. That may yet happen. But it’s hard to see why Corbyn should be worried given that the Tories would fight like ferrets in a sack about Brexit all through the election campaign. What’s more, the prime minister’s own party might stop her calling an election as they would know they would be savaged and wouldn’t want her to lead the charge.

There’s no harm in Corbyn meeting May – so long as he doesn’t get sucked in by her gimmick. Unless she agrees to put whatever comes out of the Parliament to the people, he should tell her to ask the EU immediately for an extension to the Brexit process. He should add that, if she doesn’t, MPs will pass emergency legislation to force her.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “Corbyn mustn’t fall for May’s gimmick”

  • I was delighted to read The Guardian article today (02.04.2019) by Jessica Elgot and co, entitled “MPs to table emergency bill forcing May to request Brexit delay”. Well done Yvette Copper on preparing this (ref Hugo’ s link above).
    Cross fingers!
    I’m now convinced that there are a great many respectable MP’s in parliament, who have actually planned out a strategy in the last few months of Brexit, who have anticipated the tortuous lurching of this government to the left and Right, and therefore as a result have cleverly charted each and every move from Theresa May.
    In parallel, I’m sure that the leading players in the EU are doing the same thing, and whom have been updated on a daily Basis by their MP Friends in the UK parliament.
    I’m doubtful that Jeremy Corbyn will play ball with TM but obviously he has to go through the latest drama and appear to look very carefully at the olive branch from TM. He does have his bad points but I can’t see him wilting under this latest wheeze!
    Let’s look forward then to seeing what Wednesday will bring!

  • Corbyn would be incredibly naive to agree a ‘plan’ with May. It would divide the Labour Party even further. She is trying to suck him in so Labour is tainted and blamed for not delivering ‘the will of the people’ if he does not cooperate with what she wants. She is well aware that Labour is now ahead in the opinion polls so this wheeze is also designed to dent Labour in a general election. We’ve been here before when she invited people in to give her their views. Listened, but took no notice whatsoever. She must think we were born yesterday- who would trust her given her record for going back in her word? Did she not once preach ‘no Brexit is better than a bad deal’ ? Just as an addendum, apparently Suella Braverman is offended because people have been labelling her an extremist and a hardliner! Had to chuckle at that!

  • A statesman must look at the country as it is; split down the middle. There was no effective “victory “ in 2016 . Cameron ‘s failure to set a passmark Parliament reflects this and haunts us now. No sensible decision can be taken now. To force through something as drastic as brexit without a landslide vote of both parliament and the people just to say “we technically won” will guarantee instability in the UK for generations. It would be like deciding a world heavyweight title on a disputed points decision whilst refusing a rematch. We joined with Europe for a reason. That reason has not changed. The neoliberal EU is the sum of its parts. One of the most influential parts is the neoliberal UK. Apart from the populist flag waving Brexit is pointless without a fundamental change of social and economic direction which can anyway be achieved without leaving.

  • My fear is that alot of people don’t seem to realise how exacberated the EU are with us. I think we are on limited time, and despite what the likes of Johnson and other Brexiteers say, the big losers in a No Deal outcome will be the UK. Its only really Ireland’s interests that the EU are holding out for, evidenced by meetings this week between Varadkar with Macron and Merkel.
    We just don’t have the time to mess about. If we don’t have a clear plan settled in the next few days, its odds on we’ll be out by the end of next week. Which would be the worst possible outcome for businesses, jobs, food prices, expats, EU nationals, those on medication, national security etc.