It’s been more than a month since British Prime Minister Theresa May told the British people that her deal was the best they were likely to get, and they still don’t believe her. In theory, Brexit can end one of four different ways:
4A: May extracts further concessions from the EU, increasing British policy independence while retaining economic access to Europe.
4B: A general election produces a Labour government, and then Jeremy Corbyn extracts further concessions from the EU, accomplishing the same result as in 4A.
The problem is that #4 is not possible in either its A or B form, but nearly everyone in British politics operates under the delusion that it is.
It’s been a little while since we’ve talked about the situation in Britain. For Jeremy Corbyn, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s increasingly clear Theresa May does not have a Brexit deal that can pass the commons and is unlikely to get one. On the other hand, May is determined to delay a vote on this deal until there is no time for there to be a general election followed by further negotiations. These two conditions–combined with the fact that most Labour MPs, party members, and voters want a second referendum–put Corbyn in a very sticky situation. Let’s run through the logic of his position.
I wanted to write, and had written, the post you are about to read. Then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that a People’s Vote on Brexit needn’t and shouldn’t include an option to remain, undermining Labour’s stance and throwing the party firmly back into chaos. Nevertheless, for a brief moment, it almost looked like Labour was figuring out how to take strategic advantage of Theresa May’s Salzburg debacle. If it had, here’s what we would have been able to say:
The Labour Party, which has long expressed a soft Brexit position, now appears ready to stealthily embrace a second referendum. Leader Jeremy Corbyn now says that Labour will take whichever position on a “People’s Vote” its members prefer. Labour Party members poll heavily in favour of People’s Vote–the latest YouGov poll has 86% in favour and 8% opposed–so it is strongly likely that this decision means Labour will back People’s Vote. At the same time, by hiding behind the members, Corbyn can avoid giving the appearance of having personally U-turned. Today I want to talk about this apparent change in Labour’s strategy and what it would mean for the Brexit endgame.
In Spring 2019, the UK is meant to leave the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May soldiers on, but many think she can’t get the job done. Former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair gave ruthless speeches again May, and EU’s lead Brexit negotiator accused May of being “vague” and “not credible”. Major–a member of May’s own party–was especially vicious:
It all has me thinking about what comes next. How might these Brexit negotiations conclude? Three possibilities stick out to me.