Corbyn’s alternative Brexit, the jilted TV debate and opposing Tommy Robinson

7th December, 2018 10:54 am

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Jeremy Corbyn has laid his cards on the table with a Guardian op-ed, which covers why Labour is opposed to Theresa May’s deal and what its alternative plan would look like. The Labour leader argues that the deal on offer “gives up control” rather than taking it back, and says the party will work with others to ensure it is rejected as well as ‘no-deal’. We know it will be roundly defeated on Tuesday – it’s a certainty unless May pulls the plug on the meaningful vote, which has been rumoured (though apparently she would need MPs’ consent). The question is therefore what Labour is proposing to do next. Are there any clues in the piece?

Corbyn acknowledges that ‘Norway-plus’ is “being canvassed among MPs”, but bats it away, just as ‘people’s vote’ supporter Mike Gapes did on LabourList this week. The best outcome would be a general election, he says, then there’s that well-worn phrase – “all options must be on the table”. He specifies: “Those should include Labour’s alternative and, as our conference decided in September, the option of campaigning for a public vote to break the deadlock.” Paul Mason excitedly tweeted: “Boom! Corbyn commits to second referendum if May blocks general election…” But that interpretation is more than a little generous to his own cause, as the Labour leader has simply reiterated party policy. (And, noticeably, he is still doing so in writing. The frsh public vote idea gets a much frostier airing in interviews.)

Most interesting is that, again, Corbyn places the ‘backstop’ at the centre of his case against May’s deal. The current arrangement does not allow for an independent exit, which would require EU approval, and could “endure indefinitely” as confirmed by the published legal advice. But the EU says there is no deal without a backstop. Wouldn’t Labour’s alternative plan – and let’s remember that a renegotiation is the leadership’s first preference – call for a backstop too? In yesterday’s Brexit debate, focussing on the economy, I was struck by John McDonnell’s responses on this issue. His answers were revealing and suggest this will become a crucial point of contention.

If you were hoping to abandon Doctor Who/I’m A Celebrity/Strictly and instead watch the two main party leaders battle it out live on telly this weekend, I’m going to have to disappoint you. That pre-Brexit vote TV debate everyone was arguing about will not be happening, as May didn’t agree to a head-to-head. “Her team tried to confuse people with a convoluted format,” Labour said last night. Don’t worry: there’s hours of repetitive Commons debates on Brexit from the last few weeks you can watch back.

But before that thrilling boxset binge, you might want to add another event to your Sunday schedule. Dozens of organisations including Momentum and Another Europe is Possible have called a counter-demonstration to Tommy Robinson’s ‘Brexit betrayal’ protest. As discussed last week on LabourList, there has been conflict over the left’s approach, a conversation grounded in whether Brexit appeals to the far-right because it is an inherently racist project (Lexiteers: ‘no!’). London Young Labour’s Artin Giles today writes for LabourList arguing that the left should not allow internal divisions over Brexit to get in the way of “the need to build an anti-fascist majority across the country”. LYL’s message: “Leave or Remain: we all hate Tommy”.

Sienna @siennamarla

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