Corbyn Piles On Pressure Over May’s Brexit Shambles
May's position looks increasingly weak as the extent of the split in the cabinet over their customs position becomes clear.
Prime Ministers Questions watchers will have been reminded of the ‘Maybot’ quips during the General Election after that performance, with the Prime Minister reduced to offering some of the classic soundbites after having her own Cabinet’s words labelling her Brexit plans “crazy” quoted back to her.
Beginning by using Boris Johnson’s reported remarks, Jeremy Corbyn asked “Does the Prime Minister agree with her Foreign Secretary that the plan for a customs partnership set out in her Lancaster House speech is in fact ‘crazy?’”, later following up by pointing out that the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, had rejected Johnson’s preferred option, and the EU has rejected both. The Labour leader concluded by calling on the Prime Minister to take on those “wild right-wing people”, as the veteran Tory grandee, Ken Clarke has called some of his Conservative colleagues.
May found herself reduced to attempting to attack Corbyn for wanting to leave Britain open to TTiP, the proposed Transatlantic Trading agreement between the EU and USA. This line falls rather flat after analysis, as negotiations on the treaty were halted after the election of President Trump, and the most onerous parts of that trade deal are more than likley to be replicated by any agreement struck between the UK after Brexit and the United States.
The central problem for May here is that her three Brexit objectives - no Customs Union, no hard border in Ireland or the Irish sea, and frictionless trade with the European Union - are broadly incompatible with reality.
Leaving the Customs Union means some form of checks along the Irish border, something which is near universally accepted outside of the Conservative benches, a position that has been met with incredulity by the Irish Government and EU.
As the clock ticks down towards March 2019, the truth of the matter is that the Conservatives will be unable to reconcile the beliefs of their own Brexiteer wing with the real world in time to create any sort of workable post-Brexit customs and trade arrangements, and their precarious parliamentary majority means that neither they, nor the Eurosceptic DUP can be ignored by the Prime Minister.