As Theresa May heads back to Brussels to find out if there’s a special place in hell for her too, it turns out that she has a deal with the devil to consider. Jeremy Corbyn has dramatically come off the fence overnight and given May five new Brexit demands as the price for backing her deal. Unlike the deliberately nebulous and unfulfillable (and unrememberable) six Brexit tests, these are serious suggestions which the Government could conceivably meet. But at what cost…
The five demands would create a Brexit essentially along the lines of ‘Norway Plus’ – staying in the single market and customs union. The first is predictably the demand for a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union” including the Common External Tariff and an “agreement on commercial policy that includes a UK say on future EU trade deals”. This is pure fantasy – the UK will end up like Turkey whose market access is bartered away by the EU in trade deals without Turkey getting reciprocal access in return. The worst possible outcome from Brexit…
Corbyn also calls for “close alignment with the Single Market” which is “underpinned by shared institutions and obligations” as well as “dynamic alignment on rights and protections”. So the UK remains part of the Single Market institutions and has to continue adopting new EU laws. Corbyn laughably claims this will “allow the UK to lead the way” – the reality will be the complete opposite. Brussels will continue to fax over new laws and the UK will have to adopt them all with no say…
The damage May would do to her own position by doing a deal with Corbyn which sells out on all her key Brexit pledges would be irreparable, but given her private opposition to no deal, she may feel that she has no choice as March 29th approaches. There is an argument that since these commitments would be in the non-binding political declaration on the future relationship, a future leader could come in and reverse them provided there is not the looming threat of a permanent backstop, this would undoubtedly be a highly fraught exercise.
This truly is a Faustian pact – May would finally get a deal through but condemn herself to eternal damnation in the eyes of her supporters…
Read the full text of Corbyn’s offer below:
Dear Prime Minister,
Thank you for taking the time to meet last week to discuss the Brexit negotiation and our alternative approaches to finding a deal that can command support in Parliament and be negotiated with the EU.There is, as was demonstrated last week, a clear majority in Parliament that no deal must now be taken off the table and that there can be no return to a hard border in Northern Ireland in any circumstance.
We recognise that your priority is now to seek legally binding changes to the backstop arrangements contained within the Withdrawal Agreement, as we discussed when we met.
However, without changes to your negotiating red lines, we do not believe that simply seeking modifications to the existing backstop terms is a credible or sufficient response either to the scale of your defeat last month in Parliament, or the need for a deal with the EU that can bring the country together and protect jobs.
As you have said many times before, the EU has been clear that any withdrawal agreement would need to include a backstop to guarantee no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Labour has long argued that the Government should change its negotiating red lines and seek significant changes to the Political Declaration to provide clarity on our future relationship and deliver a closer economic relationship with the EU. That would also ensure that any backstop would be far less likely to be invoked.
The changes we would need to see include:
- A permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union. This would include alignment with the union customs code, a common external tariff and an agreement on commercial policy that includes a UK say on future EU trade deals. We believe that a customs union is necessary to deliver the frictionless trade that our businesses, workers and consumers need, and is the only viable way to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland. As you are aware, a customs union is supported by most businesses and trade unions.
- Close alignment with the Single Market. This should be underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, with clear arrangements for dispute resolution.
- Dynamic alignment on rights and protections so that UK standards keep pace with evolving standards across Europe as a minimum, allowing the UK to lead the way.
- Clear commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation.
- Unambiguous agreements on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases.
We believe these negotiating objectives need to be enshrined in law before the UK leaves the EU to provide certainty for businesses and a clear framework for our future relationship.
We recognise that any negotiation with the EU will require flexibility and compromise. Our first priority must be a deal that is best for jobs, living standards, our communities, in the context of increased and more equitable investment across all regions and nations of the UK. That approach should guide how alignment with EU regulations is to be maintained in future, as well discussions on dispute resolution, the role of the ECJ, and competition and migration rules.
EU leaders have been clear that such changes to the Political Declaration and a closer relationship are possible if such a request is made by the UK government and if the current red lines change. We believe that a close economic relationship along these lines would make it far less likely that any backstop arrangements would ever be needed.
The Government’s failure to secure a deal that can command the support of Parliament means time has run out for the necessary preparation and for legislation to be finalised. Following last week’s rejection by the House of Commons of ‘no deal’, all necessary steps must be taken to avoid such an outcome.
My colleagues and I look forward to discussing these proposals with you further, in the constructive manner in which they are intended, with the aim of securing a sensible agreement that can win the support of parliament and bring the country together.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Opposition