Yesterday Labour launched a new offensive, I’ll call it Mission Impossible (and no, I’m not talking about the next General Election). The opposition have come up with a cunning plan for the Brexit negotiations by demanding that the government meets ‘six tests’ before they give their support to the final deal.
You can understand the idea. After all Brexit has, surprisingly, caused more division among theLabour benches than those of the government. Therefore this will surely be a chance for Labour to stand united for a change, but there’s just one problem… the demands are nonsense.
WHAT ARE THEY?
● Fair migration system for UK business and communities
● Retaining strong, collaborative relationship with EU
● Protecting national security and tackling cross-border crime
● Delivering for all nations and regions of the UK
● Protecting workers’ rights and employment protections
● Ensuring same benefits currently enjoyed within single market
If you look at the first five points, it’s almost as though they’ve been pulled from a Theresa May mission statement. ‘Retaining a strong relationship with the EU’, ‘delivering for all nations and regions of the UK’ – all easily met with soundbites and spin. Then, the final demand; ensuring the same benefits currently enjoyed within the single market.
Corbyn knows himself that this is an impossible task – the EU have repeatedly stated it’s not going to happen without accepting the four freedoms – but maybe that’s the point. Put all the pressure on the government with an undeliverable set of demands so that, whatever happens, the government has failed.
But perhaps Jeremy should be listening to the electorate. Indeed, maybe he should read out aletter from James at PMQs this Wednesday. It would be a short missive, beginning with ‘Dear Jeremy’ and ending with ‘we voted to leave the EU’.
Of course, some will say this wasn’t a vote to leave the single market and the freedom of movement that comes with it (yes, the same Remainers who said the Leave vote was all about immigration), but maybe these people and the Labour leader should pay more attention to polling. It wasn’t until Vote Leave started talking about immigration, and the government lost their purdah propaganda machine, that the polls started swinging in their favour. It would appear the idea of immigration reform is quite popular (including with Labour voters in the North) and Theresa May has highlighted this as a top priority.
So, what’s the point of Sir Keir Starmer’s announcement today? Our relationship with the single market will change. Our prime minister knows it and the European Union knows it. Perhaps Corbyn should just save himself some time and say his party will not back the final Brexit deal because that’s the way things will pan out as it stands.
But of course he’s not going to do that and I wonder if that’s (maybe) because he’s loving our departure from the EU. Who knows.
The fact is that this is bluff and bluster – it won’t change a thing. We know that probably six Labour MPs would defy their party whip over this (including Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey) and with the support of Douglas Carswell and a few Ulster Unionists, the Prime Minister could allow for a few rebels from her own party.
She’ll sleep easy tonight, while Corbyn continues to antagonise his voter base outside the Islington bubble. All in a day’s work for the Labour leader.
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