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SUPPORTERS of Theresa May’s EU withdrawal-in-name-only plan have given up trying to persuade Tory colleagues of its merits, preferring threats that any alternative would be worse.
Amber Rudd — the pro-Remain former home secretary forced to resign over the Windrush scandal but welcomed back as Work and Pensions Secretary in a vivid confirmation of the depleted ranks of May loyalists on the back benches — echoed the Prime Minister’s claim that rejecting her deal could mean no Brexit at all.
“If it doesn’t get through, anything could happen. The Brexiteers may lose their Brexit,” she scoffed.
In her view, the House of Commons would vote against leaving the EU without a deal, meaning that the May option amounts to Hobson’s choice.
Many Tory pro-Remain MPs will back the PM, recognising that her scheme continues compliance with EU customs union and single market rules, along with European Court of Justice authority, which is pretty much what they wanted anyway.
May spent only a short time in the company of Donald Trump after he became US president, but she appears to have taken on the Through the Looking Glass demeanour of Humpty Dumpty in saying that, “when I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
So for her, Britain will have left the customs union, the single market and the ECJ next March — even though no-one but she believes it.
May attacked Jeremy Corbyn for criticising a deal he hadn’t read, but there is no secret about its contents.
EU negotiator Michael Barnier has dictated the negotiations agenda from day one, ruling that the withdrawal document, including nearly £40 billion of reparations to Brussels, must be agreed before proceeding to future bilateral relations.
Barnier has laid down EU red lines and May has told her MPs that she will reject them before knuckling under and accepting them.
This isn’t because the PM is particularly weak but because she equates her frequently voiced dedication to “the national interest” with that of the City of London financial sector.
Agreeing to continued influence for the customs union, single market and ECJ, along with restrictions on state involvement in the economy, are meat and drink to her and her paymasters.
That is not — nor should it be — the case for Labour, for whom Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have mapped out different priorities to the orthodox neoliberalism shared by major EU governments and enforced on the bloc’s weaker member states through the European Central Bank, EU Commission and the ECJ.
Labour is right to persist with its opposition to May’s shameful non-withdrawal deal.
A negotiated agreement with the EU 27 would be preferable to leaving without a deal and this should have been in the Tories’ grasp, but for their ham-fisted approach to talks, meeting as supplicants rather than as equal partners.
Even now, leaving without a deal would pose as many problems for German car manufacturers or Irish beef exporters, for instance, as for British companies – such that a just agreement could be achieved in a short time.
McDonnell is right to say that Corbyn could be asked to form the next government without a general election if May’s plan is shot down in flames and Labour wins support for a different approach.
Tomorrow evening’s People’s Brexit launch in London projects a real left alternative to May’s City-dictated proposals and answers the need to respect the referendum vote while prioritising growth, jobs, workers’ rights and public services after withdrawal.
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