Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Rearranging the deckchairs aboard HMS Brexit

Britain may be basking in glorious continental weather, but in Westminster the heat has clearly got too much for the Brexiters in Theresa May’s government, writes Chris Leslie MP 

It took the cabinet more than two years to agree a bodged together Brexit opening gambit that had everything to do with the Conservative party’s interest in maintaining a façade of unity – and nothing to do with the national interests of the United Kingdom.

But it then took less than one weekend for it all to fall apart under the weight of its own contradictions.

The resignations of David Davis and Steve Baker not only symbolise the Conservatives’ serial failure to resolve some of the biggest questions over our country’s future, but means that Britain’s chief ministerial negotiator has walked away in despair just months before we are due to leave the European Union.

As we start to survey the wreckage of the Chequers car crash, it is clear that if anything can be salvaged it will need to cross Theresa May’s own red lines, it fails Labour’s six tests and is a million miles away from the kind of Brexit people thought they were getting – whether they voted to leave or remain in 2016.

May’s response? Instead of facing down the wreckers in her own party who seem to be encouraging the chaos so they can crash Britain out of the EU with no deal, she appoints another hardline Brexiter to replace Davis to try to sell proposals that will eventually satisfy nobody.

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This deal does not meet the deep concerns of many businesses and unions, particularly those representing the services sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of our economy and is desperate for the us to remain in the single market and customs union.

It does not meet the hard liners’ desire for us to operate independently of all EU regulations – instead leaving us paying for the privilege of being half-in and half-out without any influence at the table.

Above all, it will not impress the British people. As the true cost of Brexit dawns –  with the £50bn divorce bill and the realisation that our public services are at risk, the British public now fear for the future.

Labour’s current position is sadly little clearer. At the weekend Keir Starmer appeared to leave the door open to a People’s Vote on the final deal, but this morning Jeremy Corbyn claimed that May’s problem was that she was ‘incapable of delivering Brexit’, implying there is somehow a ‘jobs first Brexit’ that could be achievable.

Whether people voted leave or remain two years ago, it is increasingly clear that we should not have to accept the final deal without having a say. The fight is not about who is most capable of delivering Brexit. It is about what the final settlement will offer our nation.

This cannot be resolved by a cabinet riven with splits or Parliament with its divided parties. The only way to sort out this political mess is with a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.

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Chris Leslie is member of parliament for Nottingham East  and a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign. He tweets @ChrisLeslieMP

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Photo: by Estonian foreign ministry, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Chris Leslie MP

is MP for Nottingham East

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