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Labour’s inner circle is now the biggest stumbling block to a sensible solution to Brexit

12 Nov 2018 4 minute read
Picture: Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Liz Saville Roberts MP, Plaid Cymru Westminster Group Leader

Theresa May clearly has no workable plan to break the Brexit impasse.

The sheer hubris of her predecessor, David Cameron, convinced him he could end his party’s decades-long civil war. Instead, his great folly made the Tory civil war even bloodier, while his fall from grace created the far graver problem of leaving the UK badly weakened.

Making matters worse, the Labour frontbench refuses to do its job and oppose the Government on the biggest issue of the day. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have been complicit in facilitating this disaster.

They have refused to commit their party to membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union, while producing such a devilishly fiendish roadmap to backing a People’s Vote that would dumbfound even the most brilliant cartographer.

Plaid Cymru has been unambiguous in its pro-Single Market and Customs Union position. We are the only party in Wales who have been consistently in favour of a People’s Vote.

It has been left to Plaid Cymru, alongside the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to act as the sensible counterpoint to the hard-line Brexiteers.

We know there isn’t currently a Parliamentary majority for any single position over Brexit. And while there are differences in our positions, we represent a House of Commons bloc, which, including brave Labour and Conservative rebels, is certainly the biggest in Westminster.

This resistance is growing apace with more-and-more MPs making their private views public as the spectre of Brexit looms closer.

Final say

The Prime Minister has managed to box herself into a corner with irresponsible red lines. It is clear that her negotiations are failing miserably. The EU is winning the diplomacy tête á tête.

By refusing to consider remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union – the only credible solution to the Irish border question – Theresa May has strengthened the hand of Jacob Rees-Mogg and the extremists in the Tory European Research Group.

The Labour frontbench’s fudged position is now untenable. They can’t even meet their own six tests, which is perhaps unsurprising given Corbyn can’t name them.

Take ‘protecting national security and tackling cross-border crime’. If we’re out of the EU and its frameworks then we will no longer have a leadership position in Europol.

Cynically manoeuvring for a General Election cannot, by definition, offer a solution to the stalemate when Corbyn’s customs compromise is virtually identical to Chequers. The tragedy is that the majority of them know it.

Let’s take the Prime Minister at her word and assume she does want to avoid a no deal. If that is the case, and a majority of MPs cannot support the inevitably inadequate deal she brings before them, then the Prime Minister must ask the public for a final say through a People’s Vote. This is the only way she can avoid humiliating losses and, worst of all, a ‘no deal’.

But for all this to happen, we need Corbyn and McDonnell to realise the error of their ways. Rather than stand on the same Brexit platform as the Tories to force a General Election the country does not want, Corbyn must advocate what we reiterated to Michel Barnier – that a European future is still possible.

At the eleventh hour, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Labour inner circle is the biggest stumbling block to a sensible solution to the Brexit conundrum we face. With billions set to be wiped off the UK economy, austerity can only be compounded by the current trajectory of events.

Let us spell this out to Corbyn – Brexit and austerity are inextricably linked. For a party whose raison d’être is social justice, a party that claims to be anti-austerity, it shouldn’t be hard to justify switching positions.

That is why we just might be able to salvage the situation yet.

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