Labour has announced that attempts to find an acceptable compromise that will allow Parliament to deliver Brexit have failed, and This Writer is relieved.
Any government trying to act on the result of the EU referendum – as designed by David Cameron – can only fail to satisfy the voting public.
Remainers will be alienated by attempts to decouple from the EU on the basis of a plebiscite that could only – legally – be advisory. Leavers are so divided over the manner of the UK’s departure that a majority of them will be unhappy about any plan put to Parliament.
As the political party that forced the issue (concerns about the EU were a low priority among the UK’s electorate prior to 2015), the Conservatives appear to have sown the seeds of their own doom – in my opinion.
So I saw the offer of cross-party talks as an attempt to spread – or indeed transfer – the blame: Get a deal with Labour and then blame Labour for all its unpopular parts.
But now Labour has terminated the talks. Jeremy Corbyn explained his reasons in a letter to Theresa May, published on LabourList:
“It has become clear that, while there are some areas where compromise has been possible, we have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us,” he wrote.
“Even more crucially, the increasing weakness and instability of your government means there cannot be confidence in securing whatever might be agreed between us.
“As you have been setting out your decision to stand down and Cabinet ministers are competing to succeed you, the position of the government has become ever more unstable and its authority eroded. Not infrequently, proposals by your negotiating team have been publicly contradicted by statements from other members of the Cabinet.
“In recent days we have heard senior Cabinet ministers reject any form of customs union, regardless of proposals made by government negotiators. And despite assurances we have been given on protection of environmental, food and animal welfare standards, the International Trade Secretary has confirmed that importing chlorinated chicken as part of a US trade deal remains on the table.
“After six weeks of talks, it is only right that the Government now wishes again to test the will of Parliament, and we will carefully consider any proposals the Government wishes to bring forward to break the Brexit deadlock.
“However, I should reiterate that, without significant changes, we will continue to oppose the Government’s deal as we do not believe it safeguards jobs, living standards and manufacturing industry in Britain.”
I made my own feelings on the matter clear, on Twitter:
— Mike Sivier (@MidWalesMike) May 17, 2019
After the talks, the recriminations. Despite Mr Corbyn’s assertion (once again) that the talks were carried out in good faith, already accusations are being made that he was doing nothing more than “shadow-boxing”. He has refuted those claims on BBC news:
"It was not shadow boxing"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 17, 2019
And the Evening Standard has published a claim that Mr Corbyn discussed a plan to leave the EU on July 31, denying the opportunity of a second – confirmatory – referendum to those who want it. The implied accusation against Mr Corbyn is nonsense, for reasons I’ll detail below – but you should see the claim first:
“The plan involves:
- Free votes for MPs in which they would rank in order of preference five different forms of customs arrangements with the EU, ranging from a full permanent trade pact to a looser or temporary arrangement. The aim is to force the Commons, which has rejected every option shown so far, to a decision.
- A free vote on making any deal subject to a second referendum, which appears designed to block the campaign backed by 150 Labour MPs for a confirmatory ballot attached to any deal.
- Whipped votes on other areas where the two sides appear to have reached agreement, including to keep European worker rights and green standards.
“The leaked memo, shown to the Evening Standard, was sent to Labour on Wednesday.
“However, a senior Labour source insisted that the document was not approved by Mr Corbyn and no decision had been made by Labour on the form of votes to be staged.”
It is ludicrous for anyone to claim that this shows Mr Corbyn colluding in a plan to shut the electorate out of having a say on the final form of Brexit.
In fact, it is entirely possible that this is the proposal that caused him to give up on the talks.
Think about it: he resumed negotiations on Tuesday, the proposal was put to Labour on Wednesday and now, on Friday, he has pulled out.
That indicates opposition rather than collusion, and we should question very closely the behaviour of anyone suggesting otherwise. Shouldn’t we, Labour MP Alex Sobel?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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