Conservatives voters feel government is in cahoots with the opposition striving to lessen a qualitative Brexit.
London: Just when the country thought Brexiting couldn’t get worse, it did. After a seven-hour “house arrest” at No.10, where the Cabinet presented a majority for “No Deal”, Theresa May went off-piste, enlisting the help of the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, to find a way to pass the fatigued Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and Political Declaration in Parliament. The PM is hoping to establish a consensus for a customs union; this was a diabolical move as far as Tory grassroots, the European Research Group (ERG) and the Democratic Unionist Party were concerned.
Labour’s alternative Brexit plan includes a customs union with a strong relationship with the single market, support for EU nationals and refugees. So far, Corbyn has indicated a longer extension is acceptable and it seems the Labour Party supports either a Confirmatory Vote or even a People’s Vote/Second Referendum. Allegedly, Labour has been told that the WA is a customs union in all but name, but Liam Fox, Minister for International Trade, confirmed to the 1922 Committee that a customs union is not part of the 2017 Manifesto; these are some of the contradictions displayed every day. In general, folks are not expecting much from May’s collusion with Corbyn. Many are shell-shocked to find their PM ignoring the 2016 Referendum result and disregarding her own Cabinet and her own 2017 Manifesto, even possibly handing over a quasi-Brexit credit to Corbyn. Conversely if the quasi-Brexit failed would Corbyn want that responsibility?
The House of Commons and the House of Lords have both passed the Letwin-Cooper Bill that seeks to give Parliament the authority to insist the PM to request an extension and for how long. This still needs Royal Assent to become an Act of Parliament and it will still require a motion to be carried, assumed to be on Monday-Tuesday.
But the PM trumped the Cooper-Letwin plot. On Friday, May wrote to “Dear Donald” (Tusk—President of the European Council), confessing her inability to establish a ratification in the House of Commons for her deal. To avoid leaving with a “No Deal” on 12 April, in the hope of finding a compromise from 360-degrees on the future relationship with the EU and without having to reopen the WA, May has accepted her deal will not be passed before the EU Summit on 10 April. The PM hopes to agree enough Labour MP support by 22 May to avoid UK contesting in European Parliamentary Elections, where UK currently holds 73 seats. She has requested a flexible extension with an ultimate termination date of 30 June 2019, which means if approval takes time, UK could delay beyond 22 May and participate in EU elections or if approval is given UK can Brexit before. But the EU might not be inclined to grant further extensions by small increments. One interesting point made by an insider questioned what would UK prospective MEPs campaign on? What would their manifesto contain? Because of the population distribution in the UK, most MEPs would be from outside London, where the constituencies are mostly for leaving the EU.
Many Conservatives voters feel the government is in cahoots with the opposition striving to lessen a quantitative and qualitative Brexit. The WA and the Political Declaration do not represent Brexit to those who voted to leave; the failure of Theresa May’s government to engage Parliament earlier in the negotiating process and educate some MPs as to the realities of a customs union or “No Deal” is apparent.
In Friday’s Newport West byelection, a Labour seat for 32 years, turnout was abysmally low, dropping from 67% to 37%. Only 15% of the electorate managed to elect a Remainer MP to a Leaver constituency. This is a manifestation of how faith in Parliament and British democracy has waned.
It is known that the alternative aspirations for No.10 are developing with experienced fixers at the helm, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary has Vote Leave impresario Matthew Elliot; and the Brexiteer’s favourite, Boris Johnson has strategist Lynton Crosby. Other campaigns surfacing are Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Penny Mordaunt, Secretary for International Development; Johnny Mercer, MP and former military man; Dominic Raab, MP and former Brexit Secretary; James Cleverly MP, newly appointed Junior Brexit Minister, Deputy Chairman of Conservative Party and former military man. Judging by the chicanery of the past weeks, this longer extension could a) deliver a diluted Brexit via approving the noxious WA; b) force May to accept a longer extension until March 2020 as Tusk has suggested, during which UK will suffer the ignominy of EU elections and a change of Conservative leadership.
Post script: At 5.25pm BST on 5 April, the May-Corbyn talks collapse. Keir Starmer, Labour Shadow Secretary, said “So far, the government isn’t proposing any changes to the deal… In particular it’s not countenancing any changes to the actual wording of the political declaration…Compromise does require change.” And thus Brexit goes on and on.