Jeremy Corbyn with Keir Starmer. Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA ImagesThe time has come. Theresa May is about to unveil her Brexit deal to MPs in Parliament and call on them to support it. Take it or leave it, she will say. It's either my deal or the chaos of no deal.
I know it has been extremely difficult to stay on top of the news. Keeping track of Brexit news felt like wading through a swamp sometimes: it was thick, incomprehensible and full of dread. I’m not going to recount anything. Instead I want to take a step back and offer the broader picture.
1. This was a one-sided deal
Brexit was a polarising vote but the support for and against it was spread across party lines. Many Conservatives were opposed to leaving the EU and many Labour voters can’t wait to get out. Theresa May had an historic opportunity to take a non-partisan approach to Brexit negotiations and work with Labour to achieve consensus.
Instead she did the opposite. The Tory party kept becoming more extreme in its approach to Brexit and she kept going with it. Prominent Brexiteers said there was no need to leave the EU Single Market (here’s Boris Johnson). Now they are dead against it. They said Brexit wouldn’t mean leaving the EU Customs Union. Now they are dead against staying in that too.
The PM didn’t bring the country together. Instead she sought to polarise opinion in her favour and appease the extremists in her own party. David Cameron had made the same mistake. Now, Jacob Rees-Mogg became all powerful.
2. ‘No Deal’ is a bluff
“I reject this false choice between the PM’s deal and ‘no deal’ chaos,” wrote Tory ex-minister Jo Johnson last week when he resigned. He was right.
The government would be mad to let Britain crash out without a deal, and everyone knows it. Our way of life is too intertwined with the EU to leave without a deal. No deal would wreak havoc on businesses across the country, create food and medicine shortages, possibly even spark riots. To be offered this as a serious choice is an insult. As IPPR’s Tom Kibasi has pointed out, “Panic over crashing out of the EU is being whipped up deliberately to railroad parliament.”
3. Theresa May is hoping to take Corbyn down with her
There’s only one conclusion to draw from this. Labour MPs must hold firm and reject the deal that Theresa May offers them.
Why? Because it will take Britain out of the EU Customs Union without an alternative. And worse, it will do so a few years from now, thus prolonging uncertainty and decline. It is the worst of all worlds. The Tories had promised their deal would deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union. It doesn’t. It wants a clean break without any alternative. Businesses have rightly pointed out that this would be reckless and dangerous. Even Tory ministers have said it.
The Prime Minister has been so eager to appease extremists in her own party, she has ignored the interests of the country. Now she is hoping to pressure Labour MPs to bail her out.
Corbyn has said Brexit is inevitable. But if Corbyn votes to support Theresa May’s deal, this will be his Iraq. Voting for this Brexit deal will be catastrophic enough to sweep away any Labour MP, including Corbyn. Anyone who votes for it could never lead the party.
The damage to the country due to the deal will be too great. May is asking Labour MPs to vote for a prolonged poison pill. They would be foolish to take it.