Once again the UK is potentially days away from crashing out of the EU with no deal, with no clear path to avoiding it. Theresa May is in talks with Jeremy Corbyn about reaching a cross-party agreement which could trade away our freedom of movement and any chance of a people’s vote for some vague statements about post-Brexit negotiating aims. On Monday in Parliament Labour whipped in favour of three indicative motions to find a way forward, but not for Joanna Cherry’s crucial emergency brake, on which many of its MPs abstained. If we crash out because of that, or leave on the barest of terms with Corbyn’s approval, many voters will be abstaining from voting for Labour.
On the weekend I finished reading Fintan O’Toole’s impressive Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain. Here’s an interview where he discusses it, and a review by novelist Jonathan Coe: “O’Toole has nailed us to the floor with a nine-inch nail.”
Dominic Grieve has been deselected by local Conservative party members, who are instead backing an ex-UKIP member who’s been a Conservative for only a year. Grieve is one of a handful of key players who have preserved what hope we have of a tolerable outcome to this mess, as architect of the requirement to hold a Meaningful Vote on the final deal. (The others are Gina Miller, whose legal challenge secured Parliament’s role in the process, and Jolyon Maugham QC and the group of MEPs and MPs whose victory at the ECJ confirmed the UK’s unilateral right to revoke Article 50.) That’s why diehard Leavers in the party hate him, of course.
The DUP, meanwhile, seem to be coming to the conclusion that no achievable Brexit can preserve the union, and that if they have to choose they’ll choose the union over Brexit. The Tories may finally have to face up to the reality of life as a minority government. Too many Tory MPs don’t seem to understand how parliaments work, and almost two years after the election are still in denial about losing their majority. The people didn’t vote for a Tory government in 2017, and the only reason we have one is that DUP MPs found it more palatable and convenient to support May than Corbyn.
That hasn't prevented them from wielding the various arms of government to their worst effect. The Home Office has quietly changed how it will treat Northern Irish citizens. The change seems to relate to recent cases where people from Northern Ireland have been able to bring in non-EU spouses because of their dual citizenship, when they would have had a harder time had they been treated as UK citizens alone. The Home Office is trying to close that door independently of Brexit, I suspect, but in a way that also conveniently heads off this “loophole” post-Brexit. But in doing so it appears to be flouting the Good Friday agreement.