May gave what for her was a reasonably substantial speech yesterday, meaning it wasn’t just “red, white and blue Brexit” said in a slightly different way 43 times but rather something that at least had the trappings of substance. She is going to have talks with Jeremy Corbyn to try and see what Labour can agree to as a means of getting her deal through parliament and thus avoiding a long extension and EU elections.
You don’t need to be an expert in the workings of Westminster to realise pretty quickly that May was mostly doing this as a means to dipping Corbyn’s hand in the mess that has become Brexit. Conversely, that Corbyn was obviously going to approach this as a means to causing the most embarrassment possible for May and the Tories. In other words, the chances of anything constructive emerging from these talks, before they have even taken place, is obviously pretty low.
Some have speculated that the May-Corbyn summit means the death of the People’s Vote. I understand the thesis – both May and Corbyn are very much against the idea of another referendum, so having them conspire on a Brexit agreeable to them both would naturally preclude any such plebiscite. Only, I return to the last paragraph: nothing pragmatic is likely to emerge from the May-Corbyn talks. More interesting is what some in the cabinet have been briefing to the lobby about what happens after the wheels inevitably come off the May-Corbyn Brexit express.
The best summation of this comes from a Robert Peston tweet:
A number of ministers have told me that @theresa_may has definitively decided that no-deal Brexit on 12 April must be avoided at all costs. So if she cannot reach Brexit compromise with @jeremycorbyn “we will have to reach out around him”, says one.
This “reach out around” idea has been doing the rounds. Basically, if Corbyn won’t play ball (which, let’s face it, he won’t) then May will look for other possibilities amongst a decent number of other opposition MPs that do not follow Corbyn’s lead. So, the SNP/LD/TIG/Green/Plaid block that contains about 65 MPs and about 100 or so (at least) Labour MPs who loathe Corbyn. What do all of these people want? A People’s Vote. Now, I know May has said she doesn’t want another EU referendum. But faced with that being the only way to get her deal through, will she or won’t she accept it? We’ll find out soon enough.