UK Labour Party leader Corbyn readies to change Brexit political backdrop

UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. UK Labour Party photo

Tomorrow, Tuesday, the British Parliament, the Commons, is to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal, for a kind of soft Brexit withdrawal agreement. As everybody agrees, it’s most likely this PM’s plan will be rejected by the majority of the parliamentarians, as they have also voted down her other proposals during the past critical weeks. The deputies who want to avoid a no-deal Brexit have formed an informal parliamentary majority, comprising almost all the Labour Party MPs plus the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats plus at least 10 dissident Conservative representatives.

This last group is formed by the Tory MPs who strongly disagree with the Brexiteer majority of their own party group, in favor of a no-deal Brexit. In reality, the Tory MP’s who long for a Brexit at all costs are no more than one hundred and twenty. So, in a House of 650 they constitute a tiny minority. Yet, by opposing the PM’s proposal for a soft Brexit, they have created havoc in the governing party and through it in the Parliament and the country.

Tory paralysis

Last month, this group of Tory MPs went as far as to table a party motion to oust May from party Presidency and the Premiership. They lost and May remained in both leading posts. However, after that, she became estranged to around half of her party’s MPs. In this way, the governing Tory party has become paralyzed and has proved incapable of leading the country to any Brexit deal. As things stand now, this Brexiteer Tory group is happily seeing the government and the country sleepwalking to a no-deal Brexit.

In case the major opposition Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn do not intervene actively, this is exactly what is going to happen after May loses tomorrow’s vote. To be reminded, this proposal has been endorsed by the other 27 EU leaders. By the same token, on mainland Europe, there is no time or willingness to negotiate a new withdrawal agreement with the UK. The clock is ticking and 29 March remains the default Brexit day. According to both the EU Treaties and the UK law, on midnight of this day Britain will cease being a member of the European Union, irrespective of the existence of a Brexit deal.

No interim period?

On top of that, in case of a no-deal Brexit after May’s withdrawal proposal falls, there won’t be an interim period either. Such a transitional arrangement is provided only by her proposal. It foresees that Britain and the EU will continue as today until the end of 2021. During that period, the two sides are supposed to negotiate and agree about their future economic and political relations. Unfortunately, a no-deal Brexit will erase this adjustment interval and deprive the British and the EU economies of a badly needed adaptation phase.

As things stand now, tomorrow’s negative vote outcome is taken as a fact by the majority of the members of the Parliament. In view of that, those who want to avoid a no-deal Brexit have already started preparing for what comes next. As noted above, the no-deal Brexit deniers comprise almost the all the opposition parties including the major opposition Labour Party plus a dozen of governing Tory deputies. So, they undoubtedly command a Parliamentary majority. Still, they do not want to be seen as violating the 52% Brexit result of the 23 June 2016 referendum.

MPs want a Brexit deal

As a result of this referendum, the UK has passed a law foreseeing the 29 March 2019 as the default Brexit day. This date can be revoked or extended by an amendment in the Commons. But, as noted above, the majority of the MPs rejecting the no-deal Brexit don’t want to sidestep the 2016 referendum result. Unfortunately, again, there is chaos in these quarters too. Some of them want a new referendum. Some others prefer to trigger an early legislative election, by challenging May’s backing in the Commons.

The major opposition Labour Party with 257 deputies and the Scottish National Party with 35 seats constitute the bulk of the Parliamentary majority rejecting the no-deal Brexit. They have already produced legislation with 303 in favor and 296 against, obliging the government to bring a new withdrawal/Brexit proposal within three days after May’s offer in voted down. Some days ago, the same deputies voted an amendment asking the government clear with Parliament all expenses meant to alleviate the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

May’s black Tuesday

So, if, as expected, the PM tables her proposal tomorrow Tuesday and loses the vote, she will be obliged to produce a new Brexit bid on Saturday. Obviously, this is impossible and everybody knows that. The same is true for the Labour Party deputy who tabled and won the ‘three days’ amendment, compelling the government to bring about a new Brexit deal in 72 hours.

Reportedly, in the coming weeks, the deputies who want to evade a no-deal Brexit are planning to table and pass a number of amendments blocking this prospect. Obviously, they aim at actively blocking the government from sleepwalking to a no-deal divorce.

Yet, nobody dares to table and support groundbreaking legislation, directly sidestepping the 23 June 2016 referendum results. The 29 March exit deadline doesn’t change in this way though, more so because the Labour Party doesn’t want to be seen as ignoring the referendum. Then what?

Default divorce date

With a full revocation of the Brexit date of 29 March out of question, its extension is then the only feasible target which the no-deal deniers can aim at. The Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn are at the heart of this affair. According to an EU Court decision, the revocation can be effectuated unilaterally by Britain. Nevertheless, the extension of the Brexit date needs the consent of the other 27 EU countries.

Politically and pragmatically this consent can be secured only in relation of a special occurrence. Understandably, it may be the fixing of a date for a second referendum or of an early legislative election or, at the limit, both. Brussels will never accept an extension for more …talks.

Early election, new referendum or both?

Then, the Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn have to be instrumental is this affair. Actually, he is presently hard pressed by many people, even from the Conservative party, to make the soonest possible a decision towards this direction. The governing Tory party is totally incapable of anything.

So, Corbyn has to decisively act now towards leading the country to an early general election or to a second referendum or both. He said he is to table a no confidence motion in Parliament against the government, after May loses the Tuesday Brexit vote. This may trigger a general election. More Parliamentary squabbling with May will impair his chances of leading Britain out of this chaos. He is the best placed if not the only British political leader who can take that risk.

 

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