From the leadership right down to the grassroots – across factions, Momentum and Progress alike – the party has agreed to ‘Stop Tory Brexit’.
The problem is that this clear ambition has an expiration date. On 11th December, just under two weeks time, it is practically unfathomable that May’s deal will get Commons approval. And that’s when the splits within Labour will open up again, and aired publicly.
Jeremy Corbyn is known to be working on a communications plan for his alternative Brexit deal, with ideas being floated for “Jeremy’s Better Brexit”. It’s already had a public outing, when the Labour leader told the CBI last week that a “sensible, jobs-first” Brexit plan combined with a “radical programme of investment” would help gift communities with “good jobs and real control”.
Keir Starmer, on the other hand, is at heart a Remainer who isn’t repelled by the idea of stopping Brexit altogether. Inch by inch, he has applied pressure to soften the party’s position. So what’s next? EFTA, a ‘people’s vote’, simply remain? The Shadow Brexit Secretary has always been more open to the idea of another public vote on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
John McDonnell alternates between clearing the path for one or the other of these strategies. Today, The Guardianreports that the Shadow Chancellor has made positive noises about Labour coming out in favour of a second referendum, and said for the first time – echoing Starmer’s expressed views at conference – that remain should be an option on the ballot paper.
At a Guardian event, McDonnell predicted May would lose the first vote, then present a tweaked deal that would fail again. This is interesting because there has been talk of Labour supporting (or not whipping strongly against) a fresh Tory proposal, and the prediction seems to run contrary to Corbyn’s own preferences.
What we know for certain is that Labour will put down a vote of no confidence at some point – most expect it to fail, but hopefully further destabilise the government. But will Labour push for a ‘people’s vote’, an option resisted by the leader and one that risks fragmenting the party with serious consequences?
It’s signed and sealed, but can Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal be delivered? https://youtu.be/aQyJQTpL1_I Yesterday’s EU Council summit approved the withdrawal agreement and political declaration, and the Prime Minister will return to the Commons this afternoon to provide an update. Before that, cabinet members will get their own briefing on how to sell the deal in media appearances. They have just over two weeks, as it would appear we now have a date for the big vote – Wednesday 12th December.
EU leaders have sent a clear message for Britain: this is the only deal you’re going to get. This is “the best possible deal”, Jean-Claude Juncker said. “I’m never changing my mind… If the House would say no, we would have no deal.” Of course, they would say that – they’re trying to help May sell it to MPs. Despite their best efforts, termed Project Fear 2.0 by Brexiteers, parliament still looks resolutely unconvinced. Even the most prudent list puts the number of Tory rebels at 88, while others have estimated 94.
Over the weekend, the likelihood of the deal passing dropped further. Arlene Foster confirmed to Andrew Marr that the DUP would under no circumstances be voting for it, while Lisa Nandy described voting in favour as “inconceivable”. The backbench Labour MP, who had been open to supporting the deal until recently, said the problem was not the withdrawal agreement but the political declaration, reminding us that this divorce deal is just the beginning – the toughest negotiations are about the UK and EU’s future dealings. Gareth Snell, another Labour MP who represents a Leave seat and could’ve been wooed by the government, writes today for LabourList with his thoughts on the deal. “I can’t support a deal that fails to meet the expectations of the referendum, and I’m confident it will be voted down,” Snell writes. But he acknowledges that what happens next is a mystery, so “MPs from all sides of the debate are taking a huge gamble” by rejecting it.Keir Starmer has come out in favour of a possible alternative: extending the Article 50 deadline. The Shadow Brexit Secretary reckons the government and EU, contrary to their claims, would allow the exit date to be pushed back in order to renegotiate.
This is how Labour plans to avoid both May’s deal and no deal.
Of course, extension is the precise opposite of what is wanted by BOBs (that’s people who are Bored of Brexit, as popularised by Jeremy Hunton on Andrew Marr Show yesterday).
Concluding that the British public want politicians to “get on with it” is hardly a wild observation, so some might question the political savviness of Labour’s support for prolonging the process.These issues and others could come to a head on TV.
Following reports May would like to challenge Jeremy Corbyn to a debate, the Labour leader said he would “relish” the opportunity.
We can only laugh when remembering that the PM turned down TV debates last year, saying Corbyn “ought to be paying a little more attention to thinking about Brexit negotiations”.Sienna @siennamarla
Theresa May has told her critics that getting rid of her as PM would not make delivering Brexit any easier.Mrs May defended last week's draft agreement for leaving the EU and said there was a "critical" week ahead.
Theresa May is renewing her efforts to sell her draft Brexit withdrawal agreement – saying it will stop EU migrants “jumping the queue”. She said migration would become skills-based, with Europeans no longer prioritised over “engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi”. The PM also insisted to business leaders at the CBI that her withdrawal deal has been “agreed in full”. It comes as some Tory MPs continue to press for late changes to the deal. Ministers from the remaining 27 EU countries have met in Brussels ahead of the deal being finalised on Sunday.
REUTERS|AIWA! NO!|LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday she wanted any post-Brexit transition phase to have ended by the time the country is due to hold a national election in 2022.
Britain’s implementation, or transition phase, is expected to run until the end of 2020 but the European Union’s negotiator Michel Barnier has said it could be extended to allow details of the future relationship to be agreed.
“I think it is important that in delivering for the British people we are out of the implementation period before the next general election,” May said in a speech to business leaders in London.
Reporting by William James and James Davey; writing by Kate Holton; editing by Michael Holden
|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|After finally reaching agreement with the European Union on the details of Brexit earlier this week, Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, wobbled. Domestic critics assailed her from all sides—charging, variously, that the deal she struck would entail too close a relationship with the EU or not enough of one.
Yesterday, two members of May’s cabinet—including the official who, in theory, had been responsible for the Brexit negotiations—resigned, saying they could not support the deal. Senior backbench lawmakers, desperate to sever as many ties as possible with the EU, threatened to trigger a vote of no confidence in May’s leadership. When May stood up in Parliament to promise a “smooth and orderly” exit from the bloc, mocking laughter peeled around the House of Commons.
Swathes of Britain’s press, which is reliably opinionated, have, predictably, piled on May, too, renewing long-held criticisms of her performance and the Brexit process as a whole. On the left, The Guardian offered rare, faint praise of May, but painted her deal as a disaster with flaws “intrinsic to the very idea of Brexit,” which the paper has always opposed. On the right, the Murdoch-ownedSun—which vociferously backed Brexit leading up to the 2016 vote and has since pushed for a cleaner break with Europe than May is offering—screamed yesterday, in melodramatic all caps, that “WE’RE IN THE BREXS*IT.” The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, has topped its front page with scathing opinion pieces for two days running. Yesterday, it went with a wounding assessment by Nick Timothy, May’s former right-hand man, that the deal was “a capitulation.” Today, it quoted columnist Allison Pierson’s call for May to resign immediately. “We need a chess grandmaster to wrangle with Brussels,” Pierson writes, “not the runner-up in the 1973 Towcester tiddlywinks competition.”
Britain’s print media are not generally prone to changing their spots, yet the past few months have brought some curious, and important, realignments. A year and a day ago, the right-wing Daily Mailmocked up a mugshot-gallery-style front page with pictures of Conservative Party lawmakers who favored Britain’s EU membership under the headline “The Brexit mutineers” (afterward, some of them received threats). Since then, however, Paul Dacre, the Mail’s pro-Brexit editor, departed, and was replaced by Geordie Greig, a convinced “Remainer.” This morning, the Mail once again took aim at Conservative rebels—this time, however, it was those on the opposite, hard-right wing of the party that drew its ire. Calling them “preening saboteurs,” the paper asked, in its front-page headline, “HAVE THEY LOST THE PLOT?”
The Daily Express, a strident right-wing voice of yore, has been kind to May’s soft Brexit deal this week, too. It, too, got a new editor this year, appointing Gary Jones, who formerly led the Sunday Mirror, a left-leaning tabloid. At a Parliamentary hearing shortly after his appointment, Jones called some of his paper’s past content “Islamophobic” and “downright offensive,” and promised a softening of tone. Yesterday, the Express painted the “rosiest picture as far as May is concerned” of any paper, the Guardian observed, “with no mention of leadership challenges or cabinet troubles”; this morning, its front-page headline called May “defiant.”
Britain’s tabloids pride themselves on their ability to shape the country’s political agenda. In 1992, a now-mythic Sun front page famously claimed credit for an unexpected Conservative Party election victory (“IT’S THE SUN WOT WON IT”). The foundations of the country’s vote to leave the EU, too, were undoubtedly laid by decades of hostility toward Europe on the part of right-wing papers, the Mail and the Express prominent among them. May remains very much under-fire—not least from The Sun—though it will comfort her that at least a few strong media voices who would previously have ridiculed her deal are standing behind it, and her, for now.
The extent to which British papers lead their readers by the nose, rather than the other way around, however, has long been an open debate. A YouGov pollout today indicates widespread public rejection of May’s deal, with many citizens pushing for a second referendum instead. Like everywhere else, newspaper circulation in Britain is declining. If Brexit is the apotheosis of the country’s campaigning press, it might also mark the start of a new, steep decline.
Below, more on Brexit:
A1: The Guardian has a good round-up of today’s British newspaper front pages.
B3: While right-wing columnists in the Telegraph slammed May’s deal and called for a harder Brexit, the paper today gave page three to an op-ed by Tony Blair, former Labour Party prime minister, who is campaigning for a second vote to keep Britain in Europe after all.
C you later: When May became prime minister after the Brexit vote, in 2016, she sacked George Osborne, who had served as finance minister under May’s predecessor, David Cameron. Osborne then quit politics to become editor of the Evening Standard, a London newspaper. He’s used that perch to relentlessly hound May: according to Esquire, he said last year that he would not rest until she is “chopped up in bags in my freezer.” It comes as no surprise that the Standard has been hard on May’s deal this week, calling it “dead.”
D parts: In July, The Atlantic’s Tom Rachman wrote that Paul Dacre’s departure from the Mail could change Britain. “The Daily Mail still commands vast power, its thunderous front-page headlines all but causing the paintings to tremble at 10 Downing Street,” Rachman wrote. “And this is where Greig comes in, for he is about to take control at the inky institution, perhaps editing this country’s political chaos in the process.”
|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA|AIWA! NO!|Theresa May will on Thursday ask her Brexit “war Cabinet” to agree a backstop plan that would keep Britain in a customs union with Brussels until a permanent trade deal can be agreed.
British and EU negotiators are understood to have agreed in principle to an all-UK backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland that would remove the final major obstacle blocking a withdrawal agreement.
Boris Johnson said the deal would turn the UK into a “permanent EU colony” and the DUP angrily threatened to break its confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives and potentially bring down the Government if the Prime Minister goes through with the plan, which it described as a “sell out”.
I have a guilty secret.Every so often, I retreat to Greggs for a Steak Slice, sausage roll, cup of tea and a read of last Saturday’s New York Times.
I get quite excited by the Anglo-American mixture of it all.
Why last Saturday’s New York Times? – I don’t hear you cry.
Well, it would be a bit OTT for me to have each day’s NYT delivered to me. So I have an arrangement with the local W.H.Smith’s whereby they hold each Saturday’s edition for me. Sometimes I get a bit behind with reading them. I caused some consternation recently when I took seven back copies to the Isles of Scilly to peruse on holiday. We were nearly into excess baggage territory. There was some fear that the ship might start taking in water as a result of the extra weight. But I do eventually read them.
Essentially, if you want to know what’s going on in the world, then read the New York Times. The sheer width and depth of articles they carry, on all manner of subjects, is staggering.
Anyway, the BBC have just finished airing an excellent series of documentaries which follow the NYT journalists and editors during the first year of Trump.
If you haven’t seen the series then it is worth watching it on BBC iPlayer where the last three episodes are available to view for the next week or so. The series is called “Reporting Trump’s First Year – The Fourth Estate”.
It is a thoroughly fascinating series which shows the team going through the process of reporting on Donald Trump as President. It sees them dealing with Trump’s attacks on “fake news” – of which the NYT is meant to be purveyor-in-chief.
Looking back on it, one is reminded how we are numbed by Trump. He does and says so many outrageous things that we have become quite inured to him.
That is dangerous.
* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.