Corbyn renegotiation plan is a pipe dream

by Luke Lythgoe | 03.01.2019

Jeremy Corbyn’s latest attempt to dodge backing a People’s Vote is to demand the prime minister renegotiates her deal with the EU. Any renegotiation with so little time left on the Article 50 clock is a tall order. And the new deal Corbyn wants, free of EU state aid rules, isn’t even on the table.

Corbyn outlined his latest strategy yesterday. “What we will do is vote against having no deal, we’ll vote against Theresa May’s deal; at that point she should go back to Brussels and say, ‘This is not acceptable to Britain’ and renegotiate a customs union, form a customs union with the European Union to secure trade.”

As Brexit proposals go, it’s vague. It is similar to those laid out by the Labour leader in a Guardian column in December. This too involved a “comprehensive” customs union, plus a “new and strong” relationship with the EU’s single market.

The main change seems to be that Corbyn now envisages May renegotiating this new deal. Perhaps Corbyn has realised time is ticking, the likelihood of success is slim, and it is therefore better to pin failure on the prime minister.

But let’s pretend for a moment that the EU does a u-turn on its policy of not reopening talks and agrees to renegotiate a deal along Corbyn’s lines. That deal still has many of the same problems as the government’s current proposal. We would still become a rule-taker where we once had an influential voice in the EU’s decisions. Also the Irish border issue won’t be settled by a customs union alone. Without accepting a whole load of additional single market rules, some form of backstop will be necessary.

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Stuck on state aid

But there’s one big reason to think Corbyn cannot get the deal he wants: state aid rules. While his proposal erases several of the red lines May began with – Britain cutting its own trade deals and no more EU laws – freedom from the EU’s state aid policy is at the heart of Corbyn’s Brexit vision.

Unfortunately for the Labour leader, the 27 other EU countries have hardwired the UK following EU state aid rules into their negotiating demand. They won’t loosen this for Corbyn.

His obsession with escaping the EU’s state aid framework has set alarm bells ringing in Brussels. There is actually already a lot of leeway for subsidising domestic industries under EU law – just look at the rail network in Germany. The EU therefore suspects that whatever Corbyn’s inner circle has in mind goes way beyond that.

For all the EU’s fears that hard-Brexit Tories want to turn the UK into a ultra-deregulated Singapore, there are opposite concerns about Labour’s hard left ushering in a state-run economy. Both amount to an unfair advantage for UK companies.

Corbyn’s renegotiation ruse does not seem serious. It’s time for Labour to move to a different position. This could well be Corbyn’s plan; he did after all also describe his party’s policy as “sequential” yesterday.

The policy set at Labour conference was to “support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”. Labour doesn’t have a viable alternative to the government’s deal. So the only way forward if MPs reject the government’s deal and refuse to call an election is a People’s Vote. The sooner Corbyn gets there, the better.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

11 Responses to “Corbyn renegotiation plan is a pipe dream”

  • Luke
    Don’t be too hard on him—-he’s come a long way ably shepherded by Keir Starmer.
    Labour won’t usher in a state-run economy but , with the highest fares and some of the worst services in Europe, I’d welcome drastic action on the railways. Meanwhile your ire on May.

  • Surely Corbyn knows it’s a pipe dream. He is going through the stages of the plan. Renegotiation will be formally ruled out when no general election is forthcoming. At that stage he will have to move to the next option after extending Article 50 : a referendum. The longer things drag on, the more likely remain is to win, or so the grim reaper tells me.

  • Poor old Jeremy!
    It seems unfair to do him down because his heart’s in the right direction. Nevertheless, he’s a relic from the past and he’s really not up to speed with a lot of complex issues.
    The country needs a much younger, brighter set of politicians, coming up through life with the experience of ‘real’ business and appreciating how a modern country really works.
    He’ll probably succeed in getting the UK over the line with a delay or retraction of Article 50 but that’ll be his only lasting legacy.

  • A) The EU won’t offer any more than what’s on the table. Maybe a tiny bit of tweaking for May, but not enough to get her deal through the house.

    B) He is planning a vote of no confidence in the government. That won’t work because the DUP will side with May, even though they hate her plan.

    C) He’s anti-EU and always has been. The city hates the idea of a Corbyn government which could bankrupt the country. I’m a Labour sympathizer but I think Corbyn is not PM material (neither is May for that matter).

    D) I have my doubts that a Peoples Vote will happen. Maybe evens at the moment. But be careful what you wish for – suppose the vote goes the same way ?

    As the Chinese say, may you live in interesting times.

  • Thank you. This article summarised many of my thoughts and fears. What has happened to the option to withdraw A50? None of the promises made by Johnson, Gove and the red bus have been kept. None of the advantages of making earth shattering trade deals have come to pass. The number is zero, last time I looked.

    Meanwhile the Tories continue to ‘have their way’ with the UK and are driving us ever deeper into the hole we must eventually crawl out of. Not even taking into account the millions and billions in bribes, lost business and endless spending to make brexit ‘look good’. Our infrastructure is crumbling and our NHS is being privatised by stealth. Our vulnerable are being mistreated and more.

    Why is Corbyn stuck in the rut of ‘freeing’ ourselves from EU domination? An article in the Guardian explains the EU’s position very well.

    George Peretz
    27 Dec 2018
    European Union

    We have the right to cancel A50 and should do so without delay. We would, once again, be a participating member of the world’s largest trading group.

    The EU.

  • There can be no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn has contributed to the current crisis by the weakness of his opposition to the Conservatives’ abuse of power. For example, Labour should have put on the record a House of Commons demand for an immediate vote on the deal after May’s unjustified and indeed corrupt postponement. Instead she has been allowed to waste one out of the three and a half months left before we leave , thereby greatly increasing pressure on MPs to accept any deal no matter how awful.

    The greatest concern, however, must be that he continues to argue that the UK can come to a deal which embodies most of the benefits of EU membership without most of the commitments. This is the central lie that won the referendum. To set this country on the right course we need to recognise that this is simply not true and that this country’s deep problems are internal and not caused by the small impact of our commitments to the EU.

    Even if his strategy is successful – he gets and wins a general election – he will have burdened his government with an impossible mandate. If his strategy fails we may drift into a no deal departure or accept the living death of May’s deal.

    This country needs a clean break from Brexit so we can concentrate on our real problems. The opportunity is there for Corbyn to lead or at least be part of a great reforming administration. The last thing he needs is the fantasy world of Brexit politics.

  • A clean break from Brexit means cancelling Brexit and all the wished for bending of the rules of membership and recognising that the rules must be adhered to in order to benefit from the membership. We have had 40 years of hate and fear fed to us by the various anti European groups and their distortions of the truth must be recognised for what they are. Freedom of the press is not the freedom to lie day after day without any control. The press must respect the truth. We must insist that they do so with more than a wrist slap punishment when they blatantly lie.

  • Disturbing how many see the mess we are in as Corbyn’s fault.
    The Tories have a working majority in Parliament, and so he has been forced to play a waiting game. I have no doubt that ultimately he will support a People’s vote as a last resort, but has to be mindful that he cannot be seen to be the one that brings Brexit crashing down, for fear of losing the 15% or thereabouts of Labour voters who support Brexit. Far better that May herself revokes A50.

  • Luke – we don’t have time for Corbyn’s finagling.

    He’s offering purely token resistance and clearly wants to wait until it’s too late To stop brexit at which point he’ll demand something tangible like a 2nd vote. Then he can claim he wanted a 2nd vote and the brexit he secretly wants is the Tory’s fault.
    Labour should be the natural party of remain. Corbyn is a disgrace.

  • It has been apparent to me for some time that Corbyn wants to allow the Conservatives to take full responsibility for Brexit, so that he can claim innocence when the time comes to try and repair the damage.
    Once we are out of the EU we would be negotiating as a Non-Member. That is bound to be more difficult e.g. the rebate would have to be re-negotiated. Does Corbyn realise this?

  • Tragically, Corbyn is out of his depth and has, it woud seem, very little understanding of the EU, its rules and how it functions. Anybody who thinks that there could be a “Brexit for jobs” is simply clueless.