It filled me with fury that the PM’s do­ing deals with this ex­trem­ist

... but it’s the Brexit zealots I blame for giv­ing her no choice

Daily Mail - - Brexit In Crisis - by Stephen Glover

WHEN I heard Theresa May had agreed to meet Jeremy Cor­byn with a view to reach­ing a com­pro­mise over Brexit, my im­me­di­ate re­sponse was that she had fi­nally blown it.

If the Labour leader were a mod­er­ate and sen­si­ble per­son, no one could rea­son­ably ob­ject to her sit­ting down with him at a moment of na­tional cri­sis, and try­ing to ham­mer out a deal that might com­mand the sup­port of Par­lia­ment.

But Cor­byn is nei­ther mod­er­ate nor sen­si­ble. He is an ex­trem­ist who has given suc­cour to ter­ror­ists in North­ern Ire­land and the Mid­dle East. He is al­most cer­tainly a Marx­ist, and has sup­ported the mad­cap so­cial­ist regime in Venezuela, which has mired that once wealthy coun­try in poverty.

More­over, through­out the Brexit process he has thrown a spoke in Mrs May’s deal at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, op­pos­ing her not out of con­vic­tion — deep down, he is vis­cer­ally anti-EU — but be­cause his over­rid­ing aim has been to fi­na­gle a gen­eral elec­tion.

So the thought of let­ting such a man shape the pol­icy for leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, and po­ten­tially gain­ing ku­dos in the process, filled me (and I’ve no doubt many mil­lions of oth­ers) with fury and ap­pre­hen­sion. That’s why my first thought was that the Prime Min­is­ter had lost the plot.

But then, when the dust had set­tled, I asked my­self this ques­tion: what else, in the al­most un­be­liev­ably dire cir­cum­stances in which she finds her­self, can she do?

The epic seven-hour Cab­i­net meet­ing on Tues­day was faced with a choice be­tween No Deal and try­ing to wa­ter down Mrs May’s deal so as to make it ac­cept­able to Labour.

Al­though a ma­jor­ity in the Cab­i­net re­port­edly favoured No Deal, Mrs May re­sisted it, I be­lieve rightly. Ad­mit­tedly, it is tempt­ing. Bul­ly­ing and su­per­cil­ious Euro­crats who ad­dress us as though we are a ba­nana repub­lic are driv­ing many of us mad. How glo­ri­ous it would be to es­cape their clutches.

But I’m afraid the short-term eco­nomic reper­cus­sions of No Deal might well be painful for mil­lions of hard- pressed peo­ple. No re­spon­si­ble Prime Min­is­ter could take a risk with their liveli­hoods.

Blink­ered

We must ask our­selves why the range of pos­si­bil­i­ties has been re­duced to an un­ap­petis­ing choice be­tween No Deal and a ver­sion of Mrs May’s deal, which is re­port­edly be­ing doc­tored by Jeremy Cor­byn to in­clude mem­ber­ship of the Cus­toms Union.

I would ar­gue it is chiefly be­cause of the in­tran­si­gence of the more blink­ered mem­bers of the Tory Euro­pean Re­search Group (ERG) and their even more pig- headed North­ern Ir­ish al­lies in the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party (DUP).

Oh, I know the Prime Min­is­ter can rightly be blamed for her rot­ten ne­go­ti­at­ing skills and her ter­ri­ble tac­tics as the EU’s feline Michel Barnier and his aides have danced rings around our leaden- footed and doubt­less Re­main­ori­en­tated emis­saries.

None­the­less, a deal of a sort, which did at least prom­ise this coun­try even­tual in­de­pen­dence from Brus­sels, was fi­nally pre­sented by Mrs May — and three times re­jected by the ERG ( al­beit in grad­u­ally de­clin­ing num­bers), the DUP and a knot of equally ob­du­rate Tory Re­main­ers. And Labour, too, of course.

Flawed, yes. Dis­turb­ing, too, in­so­far as the so- called Ir­ish back­stop po­ten­tially locked this coun­try into the Cus­toms Union ad in­fini­tum. But Mrs May’s deal was im­mea­sur­ably more at­trac­tive to Tory Brex­i­teers than the com­pro­mise she dis­cussed yes­ter­day with Jeremy Cor­byn in talks he said went ‘very well’.

Why in God’s name didn’t they ac­cept a bet­ter deal when they could? It’s not as though they weren’t warned a thou­sand times that, to quote the Prime Min­is­ter, they might ‘lose Brexit al­to­gether’.

It’s true that when her deal came back for the third time of ask­ing, some Brex­i­teers — Ja­cob Rees- Mogg, Boris John­son, Iain Dun­can Smith — caved in, and re­luc­tantly sup­ported it. But they took so long to do so that there was no time to bring their more bone­headed col­leagues on board.

Ham-fisted

When the history of Brexit is even­tu­ally writ­ten by fair and dis­pas­sion­ate hands, I hope the fail­ures of the ex­treme Brex­i­teers will not be glossed over. They told us the process would be quick and easy. It has proved the op­po­site.

Boris John­son id­i­ot­i­cally in­formed us that we could ‘have our cake and eat it’. As things have tran­spired, it looks as though we may end up with a small­ish slice of some­thing rather crumbly.

As is in­vari­ably the way with zealots, it never oc­curs to these peo­ple that they may bear even the tini­est de­gree of re­spon­si­bil­ity for what has gone wrong, or that they may have got their po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions in a twist.

Ja­cob Rees-Mogg was at it again on Ra­dio 4’ s To­day pro­gramme yes­ter­day, blam­ing Mrs May for her ham-fisted ne­go­ti­at­ing skills, but dis­avow­ing all blame for hav­ing re­jected a deal that would have largely hon­oured the out­come of the 2016 Ref­er­en­dum.

Both Rees-Mogg and Iain Dun­can Smith have laid into the Prime Min­is­ter for agree­ing to talk with Cor­byn, and hard-line Brex­i­teers are lin­ing up to ex­co­ri­ate her for the com­pro­mise they sus­pect she is hatch­ing. It doesn’t en­ter their minds that she wouldn’t have had to meet the Labour leader if they had backed her deal when it mat­tered.

As for the DUP, they’re a cussed, selfish and nar­row lot. All they care about is main­tain­ing North­ern Ire­land’s place in the United King­dom — but not about the wider in­ter­ests of that king­dom.

They aren’t greatly ex­er­cised by the prospect of the UK re­main­ing in the Cus­toms Union, since all that mat­ters to them is en­joy­ing ex­actly the same terms as the rest of the coun­try.

Should the rest of us care about stay­ing in the Cus­toms Union? I am dis­tinctly queasy. Leav­ing it was one of Theresa May’s ‘ red lines’ for good rea­son. It would breach the 2017 Tory man­i­festo, though as she is in the process of fall­ing on her sword she could prob­a­bly live with that be­trayal.

Un­for­tu­nately, if we re­main in the Cus­toms Union we will find our­selves sub­ject to a stream of new trade rules over which we will have ab­so­lutely no con­trol. As a ma­jor mem­ber of the EU, the United King­dom was able to in­flu­ence the bloc’s trade pol­icy.

Con­tin­ued in­volve­ment in the Cus­toms Union would also mean this coun­try would be un­able to strike bi­lat­eral trade deals with other coun­tries that would take ac­count of our huge strengths in ser­vices.

In­dig­na­tion

Some will rea­son­ably won­der whether, if we sign up to the Cus­toms Union, it is worth leav­ing the EU at all. It is cer­tainly a thought that has been run­ning through my mind.

On the other hand, Mrs May is re­port­edly de­ter­mined to re­sist any idea Labour might have that we should stay part of the Sin­gle Mar­ket, and thereby lose con­trol of our borders. But she may be forced to ac­cept con­ces­sions on work­ers’ right that would prove ex­pen­sive.

If a re-worked deal is agreed be­tween the two lead­ers, there will be enor­mous Tory in­dig­na­tion and some Labour back­bench un­hap­pi­ness. Cor­byn’s rep­u­ta­tion will be en­hanced. He will be a step closer to the door of No. 10.

The hard-line Brex­i­teers can blame Theresa May as much as they like for an in­creas­ingly botched out­come. But I’m afraid they are the worst cul­prits for hav­ing thrown out the best ver­sion of Brexit we were ever go­ing to get.

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