May and Corbyn face fierce backbench resistance in their struggle to compromise

EPA-EFE//MARK DUFFY/UK PARLIAMENT

A handout photo made available by the UK Parliament shows British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a Prime Ministers Questions in the British House of Commons in London.

May and Corbyn face fierce backbench resistance in their struggle to compromise


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google+
Share on LinkedIn
+

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, are struggling to convince their backbenchers of the need for a compromise in order to successfully push through the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Conservative backbenchers are already preparing to act as “Euro-saboteurs” if the UK were to remain in the EU beyond May 2019. May has argued that her government is faced with the choice of reaching out to the opposition or risk the failure to deliver Brexit. The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the British prime minister has been rejected three times by a hostile opposition, conservative backbenchers, and the Democratic Unionist Party.

“We have no choice but to reach out across the House of Commons,” May said, adding that “the longer this {negotiation} takes, the greater the risk of the UK never leaving.”

This view has also been echoed by an ardent Leave campaigner and leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom. Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is is suspected of being a “closet Brexiteer”, has made it clear that he wants a commitment in the political declaration for a Customs Union and is under pressure to also demand a confirmatory referendum.

The Labour Party usually talks of “deep regulatory alignment” along with the Customs Union, not least of which is because a formal Single Market membership would require freedom of movement. May is willing to agree to alignment when it comes to citizens’ rights, workers’ rights, and environmental protections, but freedom of movement remains a red line.

Both parties agree on the need for the Withdrawal Agreement, including the £39 billion divorce fee, a transition period, and averting a hard Irish border. According to the Sunday Times, May is willing to concede the Customs Union membership and offer Labour a seat in the British delegation in Brussels.

One of the challenges of the negotiation is that May is seen as an interim leader of the Conservative party and the question is how to shield any bipartisan agreement from a future Conservative leader, like Boris Johnson – a concern is often raised in Brussels.

Hardline Conservative backbenchers are furious that a Customs Union is being considered. According to the Conservative press, division over Brexit means that the Conservative party has both funding and volunteer shortages, which would make it hard to run an electoral campaign.

In part, this works to May’s advantage, as it poses the real prospect of a self-declared Socialist prime minister coming to office, with a qualitatively different view on a variety of issues, including the question of a border poll in Ireland.

May has moved to ask for a postponement of Brexit until June 30, which could mean the UK is forced to organise for the May European elections. That is a red line for Conservatives, who could react with en mass resignations from government and defections in parliament.

Leading eurosceptic Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg said that the UK should stand ready to veto the 2020 European budget if the UK remains a member beyond 12 April.

“When the multi-annual financial framework comes forward, if we’re still in, this is our one in seven-year opportunity to veto the budget and to be really very difficult.”

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google+
Share on LinkedIn
+