BREXIT UPDATE 22: THE MAYBOT’S STATEMENT
After a seven hour “crisis meeting” of the Cabinet, today, the Maybot has issued a statement that is set out in full below (it is fairly brief). The main points to be noted are:
1) She has often said in speeches “I have always been clear that we could make a success of No Deal in the long-term” and she repeats this here. This is why many MPs have been concerned that she is capable of leading the UK into a No Deal Brexit.
2) But she says she is willing to ask for a further extension of Article 50, beyond the new April 12 leaving date – a week this Friday.
3) She makes an offer to sit down with Jeremy Corbyn to work out a joint plan for the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship that they can take to the EU leaders. As well as agreeing to this new plan, they would also need to agree to accept the Withdrawal Agreement, which cannot be changed.
4) If she and Corbyn cannot agree on a plan, they will agree on a number of options that will be put to Parliament for a series of “indicative votes” in order to find one that commands a majority. In a major shift, she now says she will abide by the decision of the House – a decision that she will take to the European Union.
Corbyn has responded by saying he will be “very happy to meet the Prime Minister”. The Shadow Cabinet Minister Barry Gardiner, interviewed on the BBC’s flagship TV news programme Newsnight tonight, said he thinks Theresa May’s offer is genuine. At this late hour, he believes, she has begun to recognise that her primary responsibility is to the country, not to her party. He said Labour welcomes this initiative, takes it at face value and seeks to reach a deal that honours the referendum result while also ensuring environmental protections and safeguarding workers’ rights.
However, in the same Newsnight programme tonight, the “centrist” Labour MP Angela Eagle (who once challenged Corbyn for the leadership before withdrawing her bid) said it is possible that May is springing a trap; her intention could be to leave on May 22 without a deal and blame Labour for it. And in the April 1 debate on the various options, the TIG (ex-Conservative) MP Anna Soubry warned against the possibility that “whatever option we vote for, the government will put it in their bag and drop it into the Political Declaration” – ie that the government would co-opt the ideas of a customs union etc and subordinate them to its own agenda. And it could also be that the Maybot wants to use the threat of a Corbyn-led “soft” Brexit in order to force right-wing Tory Brexiteers to vote for her deal.
In relation to Angela Eagle’s point, this paragraph is worrying:
“The Government would then bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. We would want to agree a timetable for this Bill to ensure it is passed before 22nd May so that the United Kingdom need not take part in European Parliamentary Elections.”
As was pointed out a number of times during the March 29 debate on the Withdrawal Agreement, if the UK does not agree by April 12 to take part in the European Parliamentary elections, the UK will lose its chance for a further extension. So if the Maybot’s timetable as set out here is followed and May 22 is set as the leaving date and the Bill is not passed, the UK would leave with No Deal on May 22 – unless the EU can be persuaded to change its mind, which does not appear likely.
Nonetheless, the fury being expressed by the Tory right wing does seem to suggest that the Maybot’s offer could be genuine. Newsnight featured the Telegraph’s front page headline for tomorrow’s edition, which sheds an interesting light on the seven-hour Cabinet meeting: “Cabinet backs No Deal Brexit, but May turns to Corbyn instead”. Newsnight also quoted an unnamed Conservative MP as having said: “Corbyn is the new PM”; and the Newsnight presenter referred to Corbyn as “the kingmaker” (the BBC is usually hostile to Corbyn).
Before the Maybot made her statement, news emerged that a cross-party group of MPs, led by the “centrist” Labour MP Yvette Cooper are intending to use the MPs’ parliamentary time tomorrow (Wednesday April 3) — time that they had obtained for more “indicative votes” — in order to push through a bill that will force the Maybot to ask for an extension to Article 50 to avoid No Deal. Even though the Maybot has now said she intends to ask for an extension, this bill is still going ahead, so that she will be compelled by law to stick to her word. The group believes it can push through the bill in one day to become law. The next Brexit Update will look at tomorrow’s debate on this bill, plus the other developments at this crucial time.
THE MAYBOT’S STATEMENT
I have just come from chairing seven hours of Cabinet meetings focused on finding a route out of the current impasse – one that will deliver the Brexit the British people voted for, and allow us to move on and begin bringing our divided country back together.
I know there are some who are so fed up with delay and endless arguments that they would like to leave with No Deal next week.
I have always been clear that we could make a success of No Deal in the long-term.
But leaving with a deal is the best solution.
So we will need a further extension of Article 50 – one that is as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal.
And we need to be clear what such an extension is for – to ensure we leave in a timely and orderly way.
This debate, this division, cannot drag on much longer.
It is putting Members of Parliament and everyone else under immense pressure – and it is doing damage to our politics.
Despite the best efforts of MPs, the process that the House of Commons has tried to lead has not come up with an answer.
So today I am taking action to break the logjam: I am offering to sit down with the Leader of the Opposition and to try to agree a plan – that we would both stick to – to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal.
Any plan would have to agree the current Withdrawal Agreement – it has already been negotiated with the 27 other members, and the EU has repeatedly said that it cannot and will not be reopened.
What we need to focus on is our Future Relationship with the EU.
The ideal outcome of this process would be to agree an approach on a Future Relationship that delivers on the result of the Referendum, that both the Leader of the Opposition and I could put to the House for approval, and which I could then take to next week’s European Council.
However, if we cannot agree on a single unified approach, then we would instead agree a number of options for the Future Relationship that we could put to the House in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue.
Crucially, the Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House.
But to make this process work, the Opposition would need to agree to this too.
The Government would then bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. We would want to agree a timetable for this Bill to ensure it is passed before 22nd May so that the United Kingdom need not take part in European Parliamentary Elections.
This is a difficult time for everyone.
Passions are running high on all sides of the argument.
But we can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for.
This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands.
And it requires national unity to deliver the national interest.