Morning Briefing: May turns to Corbyn - EU won't want short extension - angry ERG sidelined
Last night the prime minister reached out to Jeremy Corbyn, finally claiming she wanted to find a cross-party compromise to break the Brexit impasse. We are no longer even at the 11th hour. That passed last week. Now, a few minutes past midnight in this short extension of the Brexit deadline, Theresa May is facing up to the reality of needing a significantly longer period in which Parliament, not the government, will be charged with finding a solution.
Once a viable Brexit scenario with broad support is found, it must ultimately be put to the people. This was conspicuously absent from both May and Corbyn's statement last night. But all versions of Brexit will break many of the promises made in the last referendum, cause real costs to our economy or to our sovereignty, and continue the chaos of endless negotiations. The people must have the final say.
At its heart, this new strategy is just more of May kicking the can to avoid splitting her Cabinet, following a marathon seven-hour meeting with ministers. Once again, Tory party politics has been put above the future of the country. But in doing so, May is putting Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in what is potentially a very powerful position. There is a great opportunity here to prevent the slide towards the cliff-edge of a no deal departure on April 12.
Of course, there are also great risks. It is imperative that we continue to explore what version of Brexit might be the most acceptable to MPs. Ideas such as the customs union proposal tabled by Kenneth Clarke and the Common Market 2.0 proposal set out by Nick Boles both deserve proper and detailed consideration.
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Corbyn must also stick to his party policy of pushing for a public vote. It wasn’t mentioned in his response to May last night, and it should be on the table. The results of indicative votes make it clear that momentum is growing behind the idea of a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal, so this must remain part of Labour’s conditions.
If May and Corbyn cannot agree on a single unified approach, May has offered to instead agree a number of proposals for a future relationship that would be put to Parliament in a series of votes.
It is good news that May has finally faced the reality that other forms of Brexit need to be explored and that she must break her red lines. But when politicians explore these alternative options, they will realise that any form of Brexit is still bound to leave millions of voters disappointed or disillusioned.
The public won’t stand for hurriedly cobbled together a Brexit deal based on a backroom pact between the government and the opposition, which would simply be a stitch-up that left the people behind.
If any new proposal is to command the support of the Labour party whose voters, members and MPs want the public to have the final say, if it is to secure a stable majority in Parliament and if it is to gain the confidence of the country, it cannot, must not, and will not preclude the idea that any Brexit deal is put to the people.
Tweet of the Day
This great reaction from FFS co-founder Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson.
EU won't want short extension
The prime minister appears to finally be recognising that a longer extension is required - but she is still trying to pretend this could be “guillotined” by 22 May to avoid holding the European Parliament elections. That, of course, would mean getting both a deal and all the necessary legislation through Parliament before then which seems unlikely. The EU’s reaction to her new plan was understandably cautious. In the hours before May’s announcement EU leaders had made clear once again that her choice was between no deal or a long extension. While the snap reaction from Donald Tusk seemed to urge patience, the Times reports that European diplomats believe EU leaders would be unwilling to approve a request for a short extension: “They will not want to come up to Brussels for a Brexit summit every two to four weeks. So they will probably agree on a long extension, with European elections.” The FT reports that measures actually under consideration in Brussels include the EU postponing Brexit to January or April 2020.
May made clear again in her statement that her reasons against a long extension were to prevent the UK being part of EU elections. But it would be ridiculous if the UK made a rushed final decision on leaving the EU just to avoid a European vote. These elections should be welcomed, and those that move early and project a positive case for settling the Brexit issue through a People’s Vote could do really well.
Video of the Day
MUST-WATCH: this stirring speech from Margaret Beckett on why ANY BREXIT DEAL must be put to the public in a People’s Vote.
"They should be asked for their view on the reality that is before them, rather than the fantasies they were spun in 2016"
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May finally sidelines ERG
May’s decision to reach out to Corbyn proved unpopular with those in the hard-Brexit European Research Group, with Jacob Rees-Mogg criticising the prime minister for collaborating with “a known Marxist” and saying it would lose Tory votes. Has May finally sidelining the hard-right eurosceptic ERG members in her party? If so, that’s some long-overdue good news. May’s call for “national unity” is a move that has been needed for a long time to break the deadlock. And while coming to the conclusion that Brexit needed to be a compromise just days before we’re due to crash out with no-deal is not ideal, it’s something that should be welcomed if the intention is honest. We’ve never needed national unity more, a way to bring the country back together. But the best way to achieve this unity and end the endless debates in Parliament and across the country it is to put it any final Brexit decision to the people.
Quote of the Day
“The prime minister may have issued a revised road map, but business communities still have little sense of the destination. It’s like being asked to follow a sat-nav to an unknown location – with the nagging worry that the directions may yet lead to a cliff. ”
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce commenting on the Prime Minister's statement
Audio of the Day
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Top Brexit comment
Dan Seamarks: Why it’s time for the Tories to make the ultimate compromise, not sacrifice. (New European)
Hugo Dixon: Corbyn mustn't fall for May’s gimmick (InFacts)
Paul Mason: May’s bombshell means the Little English nationalist revolution is over (Guardian)
Today, Wednesday 3rd April
|09.00||Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay at Commons Brexit committee|
|09.30||Michael Gove at Lords' EU energy and environment committee to discuss no deal preparations.|
|12.00||Prime Minister's Questions|
|PM||MPs take control of House of Commons business|
Tomorrow, Thursday 4th April
|-||Newport West by-election|
|09.30||Brexit questions in Commons|