The requirement that MPs approve all future “negotiating objectives” in advance has been described as “May essentially trying to let Parliament tie her successor’s hands” by Mail on Sunday deputy political editor Harry Cole. Roughly two-thirds of current MPs voted Remain.
“There’s nothing new or bold about this bad buffet of non-Brexit options,” said former Conservative Party leader Ian Duncan Smith.
Most of the “bold, new” proposals had been offered before Jeremy Corbyn wrote the cross-party talks had “gone as far as they can” on Friday. He cited the government’s “weakness and instability,” as well as the possibility of “importing chlorinated chicken” from the U.S.
A significant change is May’s attempt to woo Labour MPs by promising to “keep up to date with EU rules” and that “workers’ rights will be no less favorable than in the EU.”
Beneath this laden language is the reality that the Conservative government agreed to trade all the potential benefits of Brexit: the ability to control its own regulatory environment to create a better and more dynamic economy. It cannot eliminate regulations and create a more attractive business environment, to Brussels’ and Corbyn’s delight. Nor can it choose a similar level of regulation comprised of different rules that better fit its unique domestic situation.
The UK leaving its historic role as a brake on EU centralization, just as Emmanuel Macron promises an “ambitious” agenda and Guy Verhofstadt dream of a new European empire, assures the red tape will multiply exponentially.
British subjects become rule-takers, unable to enjoy either the benefits of full membership or the independence to chart their own economic course.
This was always going to be the UK’s fate, under May’s plan, until the contentious issue of the Irish backstop gets settled. (Brussels and Belfast both understand that the matter is settled.) May’s genius came in selling the arrangement to Labour MPs as a way of locking in economic regimentation.
Her plan shipwrecked because from Corbyn’s vantage point on the far-Left, the EU’s statism looks like neoliberalism. Corbyn demanded a promise that UK labor legislation is more exacting than EU regulations. In her speech, May vowed “to assure that UK workers’ rights are always as good as, or better than, EU rules.” But the fourth point says that labor regulations “will be no less favorable” than the EU. It is unclear which language will be codified; Mayhas not promised to make the WAB’s full text available before the Whitsun recess. Parliament will vote on the bill during the week of June 3, causing the vote to coincide with President Donald Trump’s state visit for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Short term, Corbyn wants the WAB to explicitly state the UK can hold to more stringent labor and welfare standards than the EU. Long term, he wants to move the UK further Left than the EU will allow and for May’s government to collapse. Backing out of the cross-party talks moves him closer to both ends.
Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg have signaled they will oppose the deal, both because of previous broken promises and the unspoken reality that the party will soon have a new leader. May agreed during her latest meeting with the 1922 Committee that she will set a timetable for stepping down as prime minister after the vote, win or lose. They hope for a more forthright advocate of Brexit to seize all the opportunities for growth, independence, and innovation it offers, including its ratification of the principle of subsidiarity. (Hence, the importance of binding her sucessor’s hands.)
At least 11 MPs who supported the bill during the third meaningful vote have changed their minds. One such Tory now predicts the bill will fail by 150 votes. At this point, the bill looks poised to fail by historic margins exceeded only by … itself.
The June vote looks like May’s D-Day.
Theresa May has tried every conceivable method of making this pottage palatable, short of improving its ingredients. She – and the UK – could have fared better by trusting the wisdom of UK voters, the capacity of the free market, and the promise of independence instead of deceptive negotiators abroad and faux bipartisanship at home.
(Photo credit: Kuhlmann/MSC. This photo has been cropped. CC-BY-3.0-DE.)