If Jeremy Corbyn wanted to do ‘everything necessary’ to stop no-deal Brexit, he’d have a plan

Like it or not, at least the Brexiteers have a strategy. It’s naive of the Labour leader to assume that the EU would welcome another extension, let alone a hung parliament and yet another British premier having their cake and eating it

Jeremy Corbyn vows to do 'everything necessary' to stop no-deal Brexit

As someone who was becoming mentally – not in that sense – reconciled to Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, albeit in a straitjacket and on a strictly time-limited basis, I am even more disappointed than usual to see him fail to rise to the occasion.

Maybe he misunderstands what is going on, not for the first time; or maybe he, or his Svengali-like advisers think they are playing a cunning game. But the idea, it needs to be made clear to the leader of the opposition, is to block no-deal Brexit and put the Brexit issue back to the people in the form of a Final Say referendum. It is not to give him power in any other sense.

Now, in a rational plan, this swift second referendum would be legally binding, with a clear choice not available in 2016 – no-deal or no Brexit. And depending on how that turns out, the political future will look after itself. That might well be the moment for a general election. But the European issue would be settled for the foreseeable future. It will be behind us, at long last. The rest is detail, frankly.

Corbyn doesn’t want that though. He wants to be prime minister – no dishonour in that – not to have a referendum or even to settle the Brexit issue by remaining in the EU. It seems pretty clear that what he wants is an election straight away, with the prospect of an epoch-making victory for Labour, a watershed shift akin to 1945 or, in the other direction, 1979.

After that? He’s a bit opaque, naturally, but from what you can make out, he’ll then go off and negotiate a “Labour Brexit” (aka a “jobs first” Brexit...aka “People’s Brexit”) with Brussels. Afterwards, he’ll put his deal to the country in the second referendum. Following that, we’ll get a socialist paradise.

Well, there are a few things wrong with that plan, if such it is.

First off: Corbyn would lose the British general election of 2019. Worse, possibly, no one would win it. So fractured and volatile has our party system become that anything from a Corbyn or Johnson landslide to a hopelessly chaotic kaleidoscope Commons is possible, but a hung parliament even less orderly than the present is overwhelmingly the most likely outcome.

When the first past the post system, designed for two big parties, meets four or five party politics you will end up with an awful lot of accidental results. We have never had a combination of a strong Lib Dem surge, a Ukip/Brexit insurgency, a divided Conservative Party and a Labour retreat in Scotland, Wales and its other old heartlands all at the same time. It is as if Labour and the Tories decided to repeat the worst post-war performances 1983 and 1997 respectively as part of some bizarre psephological experiment for the amusement of Professor Sir John Curtice.

One thing it would not offer any party is much of a mandate for anything, let alone cancelling Brexit or crashing out without a deal. It would simply be an extension of chaos, and achieve nothing.

Which brings us to the second huge flaw in the Corbyn plan: the EU itself. For any of this to happen in Corbyn’s world he would ask and be granted another Article 50 extension. Not so fast, Jezza.

Remember what Donald Tusk solemnly told us in April when the UK was grudgingly given six months grace? “Do not waste this time.”

And what did we promptly do? We inaugurated a two-month Tory leadership election. We had Boris Johnson waving kippers about. We learned about Michael Gove’s old coke habit. We enjoyed Rorymania and met the Javids’ family cavapoo Bailey Javid. We tore the cabinet apart. We’re planning an end to free movement and food shortages in November. We had Caroline Lucas’ bonkers idea for a national disunity government headed by a team of all white women. And Jacob Rees-Mogg got to write a fogey style guide. And then the MPs went on holiday for a few months, and the prime minister didn’t go to Brussels after all. We might or might not do no-deal. We might or might not need a visa to get on the Eurostar to Paris. We might or might not run out of insulin. We might or might not get a trade deal off Trump. We don’t know anything except that there will be “bumps in the road”.

Time well spent then.

Does Corbyn imagine that the Europeans will welcome another six months or a year of another hung parliament and yet another British premier wanting their cake and eating it? Another withdrawal agreement? And then another referendum? Does he want free movement of workers or not? State aid rules or not? The ECJ or not?

Independent Minds Events: get involved in the news agenda

Maybe we could spend the time with another Tory leadership struggle – why not? – and a bid to topple Corbyn again by his own party members, who despise his European policy. We could see a third general election in three years in the spring of 2020. And, at the end of it all, the exact same dilemma as we face today – no-deal or no Brexit, unresolved and just as messy as where Theresa May left it.

President Macron has enough incentive already – grabbing British businesses and jobs – to refuse another extension to Article 50 without having Corbyn turn up with a laughably unrealistic convoluted scheme to waste yet more months. This time, the Germans and the Irish might agree with Macron. The request for an extension to hold an inconclusive general election followed by another futile renegotiation would be rightly refused. We would in effect be expelled from the European Union. We could only stop that by revoking Article 50, which the EU cannot do anything about. But Corbyn will not do that – Ken Clarke would, if he could, get the Commons to agree it. It might well be a step too far though, even if it was just to allow Britain to regain its composure and avoid the humiliation of expulsion.

So my despair is almost complete. The hard Leavers have a plan and they are getting on with it – like it or not. They are a united minority. The forces against them are in the majority and are superficially formidable – but fatally divided. They have no leader – Corbyn has abdicated again – no plan, no momentum, no sense of that determination that the kamikaze squad in Number 10 possess. Even the EU are giving up on Britain. It’s not looking good.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in