Features

May seeks a compromise on Brexit

The PM turns her back on the eurosceptics and reaches out to Jeremy Corbyn. Emily Hohler reports.

941-May-634
May: crossing the Rubicon away from no-deal

Theresa May made "an about-face" in her Brexit strategy on Tuesday by offering to work with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, an approach that could lead to a closer relationship with the EU, say Max Colchester and Jason Douglas in The Wall Street Journal.

Following a "marathon" seven-hour cabinet meeting, May outlined plans to request a further extension to Article 50, ideally not beyond 22 May to avoid the UK having to take part in European elections. The plan is high-risk for May, who has spent months trying to appease Tory eurosceptics: it threatens to alienate them further and successful talks with Labour are "far from guaranteed".

Kicking the can into Corbyn's face

It's hard to see how any of this can work, says Philip Johnston, also in The Daily Telegraph. Since Corbyn's likely conditions a customs union, single market membership and possibly a second referendum are opposed by "scores" of Tories and will therefore destroy her party, there will inevitably be no agreement. As for the indicative votes, we've already had 12 of those, and "every one has fallen". Now that May has kicked the can "firmly into" Corbyn's face, there's a possibility that the Labour party will "tear itself apart as well", says John Crace in The Guardian.

Even if May does manage to achieve a majority for a softer Brexit and the Tory party doesn't implode, her partners in government, Northern Ireland's DUP, will "go ballistic" because it would mean approving May's deal and therefore the Irish backstop, which they regard as "toxic", says Robert Peston in The Spectator.

There are so many other obstacles including persuading voters that it makes sense to start preparations for EU parliamentary elections in the hope of cancelling them at the last minute that I "can find no MP outside of the payroll" who thinks May's plan will work. But whether it does or not, "a Rubicon of sorts has been crossed". May and her ministers "have signalled" that they are so opposed to a default, no-deal Brexit on 12 April that they "will begin a process that could blow up the Tory Party". This "will have huge consequences not least for how long she can remain prime minister".

A general election is looking increasingly likely, says Philip Cowley in The Times. However much the public may not want one, the indicative votes have shown that it may provide a solution. Parliament came close to "agreeing a policy position on a number of occasions" the customs union ballot fell by just three votes but they are all options that "only a handful of MPs from the governing party can accept".

Meanwhile, a majority of Labour MPs "happily backed a confirmatory referendum, a Common Market 2.0 option, and customs union". This suggests that a Labour government "could fairly easily legislate" for a softer Brexit. As for the Conservatives, even if they somehow romped to victory in a 2019 general election, the party is so split that agreement on any form of Brexit stronger than the current deal is hard to imagine. An election might therefore not be "pointless", as many are saying, but it is "difficult to see how it could be good" for the Tories.

Recommended

Plenty more Brexit arguments to be settled yet
Brexit

Plenty more Brexit arguments to be settled yet

Many important negotiations remain to be sealed in our deal with the EU. “No deal is better than a bad deal” is the way to play it, says Matthew Lynn
10 Jan 2021
Brexit deal: what's changed between Britain and the the EU
UK Economy

Brexit deal: what's changed between Britain and the the EU

After years of wrangling and political scraps, Britain is now outside the EU and has secured a free-trade agreement with the bloc. So what’s changed?
9 Jan 2021
When lockdown ends, be prepared for an inflationary surprise
UK Economy

When lockdown ends, be prepared for an inflationary surprise

The government is pouring more money into the economy to tide businesses over the latest lockdown. Once lockdown ends, says John Stepek,we should see …
5 Jan 2021
Will Britain’s 2020 house-price boom continue in 2021?
House prices

Will Britain’s 2020 house-price boom continue in 2021?

House prices in the UK were hardly cheap going into this year. Yet now, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, they are rising fast. Can it continue into 2021…
2 Jan 2021

Most Popular

A simple way to profit from the next big trend change in the markets
Investment strategy

A simple way to profit from the next big trend change in the markets

Change is coming to the markets as the tech-stock bull market of the 2010s is replaced by a new cycle of rising commodity prices. John Stepek explains…
14 Jan 2021
Forget austerity – governments and central banks have no intention of cutting back
Global Economy

Forget austerity – governments and central banks have no intention of cutting back

Once the pandemic is over will we return to an era of austerity to pay for all the stimulus? Not likely, says John Stepek. The money will continue to …
15 Jan 2021
Here’s why markets have shrugged off the US political turmoil
Investment strategy

Here’s why markets have shrugged off the US political turmoil

Despite all the current political shenanigans in the US, markets couldn’t seem to care less. John Stepek explains why, and what it means for your mone…
7 Jan 2021