Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn’s five conditions for backing May’s deal
Labour leader offers PM way out but is she prepared to pay the price?
Jeremy Corbyn has offered to throw Labour’s full support behind Theresa May’s Brexit deal if she makes five legally binding commitments - including joining a permanent customs union with the EU.
In a letter sent to the prime minister last night, the Labour leader said his party “would support her agreement with the EU if the non-binding political declaration were changed towards a softer Brexit”, reports the Financial Times.
“We recognise that any negotiation with the EU will require flexibility and compromise,” he added.
Corbyn is calling for the Government to “enshrine these new negotiating objectives in UK law so that a future Tory leader could not sweep them away after Brexit”, says The Guardian.
Labour says the changes to the political declaration must include:
1. A permanent UK-wide customs union, including a say on future EU trade deals
2. Close alignment with the single market, including membership of “shared institutions”
3. “Dynamic alignment with EU rights and protections”, for workers, consumers and the environment
4. Clear commitments on future UK membership of EU agencies and funding programmes
5. Agreements on a future comprehensive security arrangements, including membership of the European Arrest Warrant
Unlike the “deliberately nebulous and unfulfillable” six Brexit tests previously demanded by Labour, these latest requirements “are serious suggestions which the Government could conceivably meet”, says right-wing political blog Guido Fawkes.
The letter “represents the most sophisticated and nuanced intervention from the opposition frontbench” yet on Brexit, agrees the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush.
The intervention is also “a boost for advocates of a Norway Plus Brexit, such as Stephen Kinnock, Nicky Morgan, Nick Boles, Lucy Powell and others, as these demands can only be met by that type of arrangement”, Bush adds.
Tory MP Boles acknowledged this point almost immediately following the letter’s publication, retweeting messages backing the proposal and adding one of his own: “This takes us a big step closer to a cross party compromise based on Common Market 2.0.”
But Corbyn is facing criticism from some of his own Europhile MPs for seemingly ruling out support for another referendum.
Former shadow minister Chuka Umunna said Corbyn’s letter was “totally demoralising”. “This is not opposition, it is the facilitation of a deal which will make this country poorer,” Umunna said.
Fellow Labour backbencher Chris Leslie said Corbyn had put Labour’s conference policy, which included potential support for options such as a second referendum, “in the bin”.
The Corbyn offer will also “most likely dismay No. 10”, says The Spectator’s Katy Balls, who points out that it undermines May’s claim that there’s no way to get the Brexit deal through Parliament without reopening the Withdrawal Agreement and rewriting the backstop.
“Should [the EU] offer little to May on the backstop, the prime minister will once again be under pressure to consider backing a customs union - an option which means no free trade and is toxic to a large chunk of her party,” says Balls.
Describing it as “a Faustian pact”, Guido Fawkes says that in accepting Corbyn’s terms, “May would finally get a deal through but condemn herself to eternal damnation in the eyes of many of her supporters”.
Indeed, it is alleged that within Corbyn’s inner circle the calculation - “almost certainly accurate”, says Politico’s Jack Blanchard - is that the PM simply does not have the political capital to take Labour up on this offer, even if she wanted to.
“The belief is May will be too concerned by the threat of splitting her party to agree any deal that relies on frontbench Labour support to get it through,” Blanchard adds.