Corbyn should hope that May rejects his Brexit olive branch. Then Labour must redouble efforts towards an election and referendumby Jonathan Lis / February 8, 2019 / Leave a comment
This week’s YouGov poll offered wintry gloom to anyone interested in either curbing nationalism or promoting progressive politics. The Conservatives were up two points from mid-January at 41 per cent, while Labour was unchanged on 34 per cent. An Ipsos MORI poll had the two parties level-pegging on 38 per cent, which was slightly more cheering but hardly cause for celebration. A government that is literally threatening voters with martial law and food shortages in seven weeks’ time should not be seven points ahead of the Opposition by any metric, in any poll, by any polling company. What is going on?
To take one subject at random: Brexit. The most disruptive and chaotic force in modern British history has infused itself like a virus through the nation’s political ecosystem. All conventions and rules lie scattered and overturned. Nobody knows what to do. Nobody knows how to win.
Labour does have a plan, spelled out in Jeremy Corbyn’s letter this week to Theresa May. Promisingly, both Council president Donald Tusk and European parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt have commended it to the prime minister. The party has abandoned the nonsense of “exact same benefits”—tacitly accepting that Brexit will do us harm in all circumstances. Instead, Corbyn offers Labour’s support for a Brexit deal in return for a permanent customs union with a UK say on trade deals, “close alignment” with the single market, dynamic alignment on rights (so the UK will never fall behind), commitments to participate in EU agencies, and a clear outline on future security arrangements.
In some ways this is very clever. Mindful that May cannot be trusted, Corbyn is insisting that the Tories put these commitments into law. The mention of the European Arrest Warrant is also smart, because it boosts one of Labour’s weak spots, a perceived softness on crime and security—and highlights the casual neglect of this issue by the so-called party of law and order. But it doesn’t matter how firmly the UK parliament resolves to negotiate Labour’s Brexit. The EU has to agree. And this is where we unearth the potential cakeism.
A customs union “with a say” is simply impossible if Labour wants that say to be genuinely meaningful. Certainly, Britain would be consulted on trade deals, much like Norway’s…