The media has been busily talking up the ‘EEA amendment’ of Labour’s ‘backbench rebels’, building the idea that this was the only winnable amendment – and, of course, using this to imply that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to abstain on the EEA bill was in some way to blame for whatever might happen when MPs vote on various amendments this week.
The EEA option is a non starter for the UK, as Keir Starmer explains here.
— EL4C (@EL4JC) June 11, 2018
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer had already explained, of course, why the EEA amendment was unworkable and undesirable – especially the facts that:
- it would require a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland
- even its advocates feel it would have to be ‘EEA Plus’ rather than ‘EEA’
- even right-wing Labour MPs in areas with a strong leave vote will be prepared to vote down any EEA-based amendment, negating the possibility of a government defeat on the amendment
- an EEA country still has border checks with an EU country
In other words, exactly the bespoke agreement that die-hard remainers say is unachievable. It’s the politics of the wilfully naive.
The relative unity of the Labour Party on the issue – and the smallness and weakness of the supposed ‘rebel’ faction – was revealed on Monday evening when MPs jeered and heckled key ‘rebel’ figures such as Wes Streeting during the evening’s weekly meeting of the ‘PLP’ (parliamentary Labour party).
But even more significantly, in terms of the vote this week, the government has now capitulated enough to its own MPs – by offering a ‘compromise amendment’:
The government’s eagerness to give ground – enough ground for potential Tory rebels at least – means that there is no realistic chance of defeating the government on any of the key Brexit amendments up for debate this week.
This will only gain the government a little breathing space, of course – the Tories are rapidly running out of space to ‘trade ground for time’.
ThisTory government’s climb-down is testimony to how thoroughly stymied May and co are between Corbyn’s intelligent stance and their own rabid ‘leave at all costs’ faction.
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