by Frank Schnittger
Tue Apr 2nd, 2019 at 07:40:56 PM EST
Almost three years after the Brexit referendum and two years after she lost her overall parliamentary majority, Theresa May has decided she needs to talk to opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to forge a consensus on the way forward. Even more shockingly, she is going to abide by "the will of Parliament" if it supports an alternative to her My deal, no deal, or no Brexit approach.
No, this is not a belated April Fools Day story. Apparently, this process is going to be complete by next Wednesday, April 10th., in time for the emergency European Council meeting, where she hopes to get agreement to a further short A.50 notification extension to enable a new deal to be negotiated with the EU, agreed by parliament, and implemented in law.
Apparently this process is to be completed by the 22nd. May so that the UK doesn't have to participate in the European Parliament elections. Good luck with that. For a country which has routinely accused the EU of lacking in democracy, the UK government seems to be absolutely determined to avoid participating in European Parliamentary elections, a second confirmatory public vote, or indeed a general election.
Indeed, if Corbyn were to insist that any deal they might agree must be put to a public confirmatory vote, we could be looking at a 6 months extension being required. Why would he agree any deal with May without one? He needs to inoculate Labour against any complicity in the political chaos and economic downsides the whole Brexit process has precipitated. The only way for him to do so is to pass the ultimate responsibility for any deal onto the people themselves.
So it has to be extremely doubtful that the EU Council will agree to a further A.50 extension which does not involve UK participation in the European Parliament elections. In some ways that vote could also be a useful indicator of how political opinion is shifting among the people of the UK as a whole. No doubt UKIP, Nigel Farage, and perhaps even the BNP will do well. But will Brexiteer parties as a whole outvote parties supporting Remain or a second confirmatory vote? Perhaps the EU would like to know?
In the meantime, May's premiership limps on. According to BBC correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, 14 cabinet minsters opposed seeking a further A.50 extension, with only 10 Ministers in favour. More resignations to follow? More Tory leaders more concerned with burnishing their Tory Leadership credentials than dirtying their bibs compromising with Corbyn?
We could arrive at the extraordinary situation where a May/Corbyn compromise deal receives more support from Labour MPs rather than Tory MPs. Certainly the DUP and ERG appear to have overplayed their hands, and forced May into the arms of the political leader they hate and fear most. Apparently 170 Tory MPs have written to Theresa May seeking her immediate resignation - a majority of the Tory parliamentary party.
But of course they shot their bolt last December when they lost a confidence vote in her leadership with party rules forbidding another leadership heave until next December. So now the only way of getting rid of her would be to vote no confidence in her government and risk a general election. Probably the only thing they fear more right now. So at the moment the May Corbyn talks seem to be the only game in town.
But the May Corbyn talks might also be taken over by events. Opinion in the country seems to be bifurcating between Remainers and no deal Brexiteers who don't want any compromise with the EU whatsoever. Those advocating a negotiated soft Brexit could find themselves being overtaken by the extremes on either side. It will become increasingly difficult for Labour to ride both Remain and Leave horses at once. Again, a second confirmatory public vote may be the only way of squaring that circle.
From the EU's point of view, today's events mark another win. The DUP is about the only party or grouping still holding out hope for changes in the Withdrawal Agreement. All everyone else is talking about is changes to the (non-legally binding) political declaration which the EU has always been willing to consider.
The EU has also been increasingly focused on preparations for a no-deal Brexit, with particular attention being paid to assuring the integrity of the Customs Union and Single Market while also being true to the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement - which is predicated on having an open border between Ireland and N. Ireland. Varadker is meeting Macron today, and Merkel is due to travel to Dublin on Thursday.
Very little has been revealed of the substance of their discussions and the subject is almost taboo in Ireland, for fear of legitimating Brexiteer claims that Brexit need not result in a hard border. There is no good solution here which may cause the EU Council to be quite patient with the UK in the hope that better options will somehow emerge later.
A UK government minister, commenting on the political chaos in Westminster, opined that at least in the UK there were no riots in the street (unlike France) or government shut downs (as in the USA). How much longer can the current crisis continue without even that boast becoming untrue?