Avoiding no deal means both sides must stick with Brexit talks for now

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There are developments every day, but somehow we always end up back at square one. Labour MPs are demanding urgent action from the leadership on antisemitism within the party, following the Sunday Times story, and a group of them tabled a motion at last night’s PLP meeting that demanded updates on disciplinary investigations, information on the EHRC probe and a response to the Jewish Labour Movement’s vote of no confidencein Jeremy Corbyn, amongst other things. It will be debated next week.

In the meantime, MPs got an update from chief Labour negotiator Keir Starmer on the Brexit talks with the government. A clip had just been released in which Corbyn confirmed that “so far there’s been no change in those red lines”, and the Shadow Brexit Secretary told Labour parliamentarians much the same thing. The government is apparently still trying to argue that all possibilities including a customs union already exist within May’s deal – despite being fully aware that this isn’t enough for Labour, who want a specific agreement and for it to be Boris-proof with a legislative “lock”. Talks will continue today, joined by John McDonnell and Philip Hammond, but no breakthrough is imminent. It seems probable that no big decisions will be made either way until after the extension issue is resolved.

That brings us to the only real change over the past 24 hours, which comes in the form of the Cooper bill. Passed into law last night, it aims to ensure that the government can’t renege on its promise to request an Article 50 extension, which Theresa May will do at the European Council summit in Brussels tomorrow. (It does not actually take no deal off the table, as tweeted by Starmer.) As a result of the bill, the Commons will debate a government motion today that sets the next exit date as 30th June. MPs could try to change that, but ultimately we’re still at square one in that this is all up to the EU. And according to Alberto Nardelli, the likely proposal for EU leaders to consider is a nine- or 12-month (fl)extension, with the ability to cut that short as soon as a parliamentary majority is found for a deal.

If Labour’s main priority is to avoid no deal, right now the party must not jeopardise the UK’s chances of securing an extension. That should mean allowing talks, however unproductive at the moment, to continue. Then the leadership will have to make more difficult decisions. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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