Labour declares deal ‘dead in the water’, as hopes of further talks on backstop disappear
Theresa May has come home from Brussels empty-handed and without hope of further negotiations over the Irish backstop, with the failure to achieve any kind of breakthrough leaving her brutally exposed.
Plans to work over Christmas on a legal guarantee over the temporary nature of the backstop had run into a brick wall, EU officials said, despite May’s claim that she would be holding further talks “in the coming days”.
EU leaders praise May and stress respect with which they treat her after PM insists earlier EU27 determined to work speedily on future relationship
Our UK friends need to say what they want, rather than asking what we want. We would like in a few weeks for our UK friends to set out their expectations because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise and I would like clarifications.
Liam Fox, the secretary of state for international trade, has announced the UK has reached an agreement for a transitional trade deal with Switzerland to allow it to continue trading freely after Brexit.
It is one of 40 “continuity” agreements he is seeking to strike with countries that currently trade with the UK through an EU agreement.
Switzerland and the UK have struck a bilateral trade agreement to support existing commercial and economic relations between the two countries post-Brexit. This will apply regardless of the eventual Brexit scenario. #mindthegap #SwissUKrelations https://t.co/pRqDvcPz6N
Lineker versus Agnew spat intensifies debate about how impartiality rules are applied
Brexit has already split a nation, enraged millions on both sides of the debate and left a country teetering on the brink. Now it has come for the nation’s sports stars, with leading former footballers and cricketers squabbling about an exit on World Trade Organisation terms.
To confuse things further, many of these sporting figures also work for the BBC – prompting further handwringing at the corporation and a debate over whether the broadcaster’s sports presenters should be subject to the same impartiality rules as its news reporters.
PM says she has been ‘crystal clear’ with EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker
Theresa May has insisted that her plan to seek clarification from the EU to help get her Brexit deal through parliament is still on track, hours after an apparent row with Jean-Claude Juncker over whether her proposals were too “nebulous”.
Continental media make clear EU is not prepared to move on withdrawal agreement
Media in the rest of Europe have been scathing about Theresa May’s chances of winning further Brexit concessions from the EU27 after the bloc’s leaders told the prime minister it was down to her to convince rebellious MPs the deal was a good one.
“May wanted ‘legal and political assurances’,” said Germany’s Die Zeit. “She got a five-point declaration on a single sheet of A4 whose contents, if you look closely, are self-evident and nothing new to anyone who knows anything about the withdrawal agreement.”
Labour’s autumn political broadcast Our Town told viewers “we lost control” and “we’ve been sold short by a political and economic system that has been unchallenged for far too long.” Labour’s bait-and-switch broadcast was a clear attempt to reconnect with blue-collar Leavers in marginal English seats.
Yet these voters are amongst those most alienated by Labour as it cartwheels over the horizon to the left, turns its back on 70% of all Labour constituencies and elopes with the elitist ‘People’s Vote’ campaign.
Indeed the neglect of Labour’s Eurosceptic tradition shows the party has left its erstwhile working-class supporters behind.
Activists at Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool who agitated for a ‘People’s Vote’ seemed oblivious to their party’s history of opposition to the European Project.
The first post-war Labour government opposed participation in the European Coal and Steel Community. Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin said: “If you open that Pandora’s Box you never know what Trojan Horses will jump out.” Labour Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Morrison said of the Community: “It is no good, the Durham miners will not wear it.”
Former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee summed up Labour’s antipathy to ‘ever closer union’ when he observed: “The idea of a politically integrated Europe is historically looking backward… We have always looked outward, out to the new world, and to Asia and Africa.”
Attlee’s successor Hugh Gaitskell told the 1962 Labour Party Conference the aim of the founding fathers was “federation” and “if we go into this, we are no more than a state, as it were, in the United States of Europe, such as Texas or California.” This meant “the end of Britain as an independent nation state” and the “end of a thousand years of history”.
Tony Benn called for a referendum on entry in 1970 and wrote to his constituents: “It would be a very curious thing to try to take Britain into a new political entity… by a process that implied that the British public were unfit to see its historic importance for themselves.”
Harold Wilson was forced to seek a renegotiation of Britain’s Community membership and called the European Communities Referendum of 1975. The Parliamentary Labour Party had previously voted against joining. Labour’s Conference had split two-to-one against the Common Market. Seven Cabinet members campaigned as ‘Antis’ and Wilson’s wife Mary voted out.
And under Michael Foot, Labour advocated leaving the Common Market without a referendum, a policy that subsequently became a manifesto pledge.
Fast forward to the present and the Sunday Times reported recently that Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Member of Parliament for 58% Leave-supporting Hayes and Harlington, had held secret talks with the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign and has hosted Alastair Campbell and ‘People’s Vote’ Communications Director Tom Baldwin in his House of Commons office.
National director of Momentum Laura Parker attended a rally in November in support of a second referendum.
Then The Times discovered a motion that is being circulated among Constituency Labour Parties calling for a Special Conference with one motion on the agenda for a ‘People’s Vote’ with Remain as an option.
It is ironic that the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn is slowly moving towards their third-way Blairite doppelgängers on a second referendum.
Then again, why wouldn’t they? They are equally worlds apart from these totemic figures of post-war Labour history in having no attachment to parliamentary sovereignty and little real connection to Britain’s working-class communities.
Labour is now a very different party from what it once was. The very notion of Labour as a party for blue-collar voters is a social, cultural and electoral anachronism.
Firstly, when Labour talks about “Our Town” it doesn’t really have in mind the sociology of Leave-voting Macclesfield or Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. Labour’s imaginary ‘town’ is the parallel universe of ‘high status city dwellers’ and faux left opinion formers living in metropolitan London.
Labour is politically dependent on the metropolis. In the six months following Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, 81,000 Londoners joined his party, double Labour’s total membership in Wales. Corbyn, Starmer, Thornberry and McDonnell all sit for London constituencies (two in the London Borough of Islington alone).
They share the same geographically narrow worldview as that of Stronger In whose four principle staffers grew up in London within two square miles of each other. Two went to the same school. One was the son of a Labour Home Secretary and another was Lord Mandelson’s Godchild.
And whereas in the 1970s less than a third of Labour MPs were graduates, now 90% are. When the mask slips, it reveals a prejudice about working-class Leave voters such as when Huddersfield’s Labour MP Barry Sheerman claimed “better educated people” voted Remain and when Owen Jones talks about ‘gammons’.
Secondly, Corbyn’s bien pensant ‘Global Villager’ values don’t resonate in the Brexitlands of Wales, the Midlands and the North. Harold Wilson told Bernard Donoghue: “I don’t want too many of these Guardianisms. I want my speeches always to include what working people are concerned with.”
Yet the modern left’s disillusionment with the workers has become a post-Brexit antipathy. The social democracy of earlier generations has given way to identity politics, a political style that increasingly inflects the voice of Continuity Remain.
Consequently, the pro-EU left can’t understand blue-collar political interest in sovereignty and democratic oversight of our laws, borders, trade and money.
Thirdly, the ‘peak Corbyn’ electoral coalition was beaten by the Conservatives in C2DE vote share, prompting the New Statesman to write of Labour’s middle-class populism: “the property tycoons of Chelsea must be congratulating themselves for having seen off a threat to their children’s inheritances.”
Former Vote Leave Co-Chair and former Labour MP Gisela Stuart did her party a service when she said Brexit was a “wake-up call” to Labour. But the party’s Remainist ‘People’s Vote’ tendency would re-empower the ‘lobbyists, multinationals and Brussels elites’ Labour Leavers voted to dispossess.
Indeed, according to the British Social Attitudes survey, before the Brexit victory, nearly one in two workers felt ‘people like them’ no longer had a voice in the national conversation and Brexit won in 140 heavily working-class and historically Labour districts.
Flirting with the elitist ‘People’s Vote’ is therefore potentially disastrous for many Labour MPs. A recent IQR survey for Global Britain of the 25 most marginal Labour seats found 19 Labour candidates would face defeat if Labour attempted to frustrate Brexit and 63% of voters said MP’s decisions in Parliament should respect the result.
Labour should heed the advice of UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis who recently told Labour’s leadership to “never, ever forget your base.” Supporting a coup against five million or so of the party’s Leave voters would reinforce the perception that those who voted to take back control in the referendum would stand to lose the most control, in the political and cultural sense, from a Labour government that will only speak for Remoania.
Ironically, Labour’s Eurosceptic tradition was channelled by Vote Leave in its referendum broadcast featuring images of Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan in which voters were asked to “imagine our money being spent on out priorities”, which we could do if we voted to taken back control.
By contrast, Labour’s Our Town is part of the “give back control agenda” of a party that has long forgotten the people it was founded to represent.
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Jean-Claude Juncker tells PM it’s not Europe’s job to satisfy demands of rebellious Tories
EU leaders delivered a devastating knock-back to Theresa May after she appealed to them to hold “nothing in reserve” and work with her to salvage her Brexit deal by putting a 12-month limit on the unpopular Irish backstop.
The embattled prime minister had pinned her hopes on a last-ditch effort to persuade the European Union to work with her in devising a legal guarantee, known as a “joint interpretative instrument”, that she believes could get her Brexit deal through parliament.
Former UK ambassador to the EU outlines his hopes for more honest leadership during a speech in Liverpool
Theresa May has been accused of failing to be honest with the public about Brexit by the UK’s former ambassador to the European Union, who warned that “fantasies and delusions on all sides” risk plunging the UK into a democratic crisis.
In an excoriating denunciation of the British political class that goes to the top of government, Ivan Rogers said the Brexit debate had suffered from “opacity, delusion-mongering and mendacity on all sides” and predicted the public would not forgive politicians.
Opposition considering all options to prevent government running down the clock
Jeremy Corbyn will seek to increase pressure on Theresa May in parliament next week in a bid to prevent the Tories running down the clock on Brexit.
As the prime minister urged EU leaders to offer fresh concessions in Brussels on Thursday, senior Labour sources stressed the party was determined to “turn up the heat” at home.
PM won party backing in confidence vote but faces uphill battle to get her deal through Commons
- What the papers say: ‘Her goose is cooked’
- What happens now for the prime minister and her Brexit plans?
- Theresa May: a crisis of confidence – Today in Focus podcast
- Afternoon summary
We’re closing down this live blog now. See 5.26pm for a comprehensive summary of the day’s events. And you can read our main story here:
There is no other credible fall-back solution to replace the backstop that would allay Irish fears of seeing a “corrosive” hard border on the island of Ireland, the country’s foreign affairs minister has said.
Simon Coveney has told an Irish parliamentary committee that, even though the country’s government did not want to use the insurance mechanism contained in the draft withdrawal agreement, it had to be included.
We are all committed to ensuring that the backstop never takes effect and should it take effect, we are committed to trying to ensure that it is only temporary so that it can be replaced with something more permanent.
But, for the moment in my view, there is not another credible fall-back solution that can take the place of the backstop and that is why EU leaders have been so clear and why the British prime minister has been so clear that there is a need for the backstop, even though we want to avoid using it.
Strong intervention from defence minister @Tobias_Ellwood – no deal “not an option” for the army
“MoD planning shows that arrangements are NOT in place – economically, and from security perspective, it’s not possible” @BBCNews
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