British Prime Minister Theresa May was unable to broker a deal that brings together her party and the staunchly pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland which has forced her to reach out to the opposition Labour Party, with the distinct possibility of diluting her red lines and opting for a softer Brexit.
May is meeting with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn throughout Wednesday to seek support for the unamendable and thrice rejected 585-page Withdrawal Agreement. Failing to secure his backing, as it is likely, she will commit to a “run-off” vote in the House of Commons between the Withdrawal Agreement and other options.
She will, however, require the opposition to commit to accepting the result of the outcome, whichever that may be. This opens the door to a softer Brexit wide open, but the whole process must be complete before next Wednesday’s emergency meeting of EU heads of government.
The announcement enraged the Conservative Party who oppose any move that would see the government back a much softer Brexit that could lead to membership in the Customs Union, inclusion in the Single Market, or even a second Brexit referendum.
“This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands and it will require national unity to deliver the national interest,” said May.
Labour has consistently supported a Customs Union and deep alignment with the Single Market’s regulatory framework, which it claims would help resolve the deadlock over the question of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Supporting this position could see May facilitate a major rift in her own Conservative Party.
“It is very disappointing the cabinet has decided to entrust the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party,” said Boris Johnson, whose sentiments were further echoed by his fellow Conservative Party member Jacob Rees-Mogg, who added, “What was announced . . . was an attempt to overturn Brexit in an attempt to do a deal with socialists. It’s very serious.”
In a statement issued on 2 April, the Democratic Unionist party talked of a “lamentable, albeit, not surprising” handling of the Brexit negotiations by May.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC that the “remorseless logic” in the House of Commons meant the UK was heading for an “undesirable” soft Brexit. Barclay admitted that 35 Conservative MPs were unwilling to support the Withdrawal Agreement, which has left May with few options but to reach out to the opposition as the situation has now come down to “soft Brexit or no Brexit at all”.