Brexit: Will PM May and Labour find a common ground?

Do you think that PM Theresa May and the Labour Party will find a common ground on Brexit, what are the biggest obstacles here? Read few comments.

Robin PettittSenior Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Department of Politics and International Relations, Kingston University

Of all the possible outcomes over the next few months, Labour and the Conservatives reaching a compromise agreement is quite far down the list. It is not impossible, but nor is it very likely.

There are several reasons for saying that.

One is that there is an air of pretending about the whole thing. Both sides need to be seen to do what they can to reach a compromise, but neither side believe it is very likely, nor do they particularly want to. The leadership on both sides would find it difficult to sell a compromise deal to their backbenchers or party members. Because of the UK’s highly adversarial system, people in both of the main parties view their opponents very negatively, and the idea of doing a deal with a loathed enemy is very difficult to sell.

In addition, what Labour would want, e.g. membership of the customs union, crosses the red lines the PM has stuck to so stubbornly throughout the entire thing. Yes, Conservative negotiators have said that they do not have any red lined in these talks, but any deal would need the support of the PM who most certainly does have red lines.

So, in short, doing deals across the House of Commons divide is difficult in any situation; and in this situation the two sides are very far apart in terms of what they would be wiling to accept.

Jonathan TongeProfessor of Politics, University of Liverpool

The chances of the Conservatives and Labour finding common ground on Brexit are slim. Most Conservative MPs oppose a Customs Union and a second referendum. Most Labour MPs support a Customs Union and a large minority would support a second referendum on EU membership. May and Corbyn will struggle to take their parliamentary parties with them to find sufficient common ground.

Pavlos EfthymiouDoctoral Researcher in Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge

I think that the biggest issue here is the following – we created deadlines and final dates only to extend the timeline again and again.

In reality nothing stops both sides (EU & UK) to keep extending the date. Until, that is, the political situation in the UK changes again.

Effectively, the departure deal is final. Therefore, the question is, weather this Conservative Party, together with this Labour Party, and these particular leaderships can get to a sensible final debate, within the UK, on an honest and transparent basis, to decide on whether and how they will proceed with Brexit.

The biggest obstacle is finding the way to communicate to all stakeholders that this divorce deal which has been agreed is indeed the best possible reflection of the will of the people. If this proves untenable, then the only remaining path is revisiting Brexit altogether.

And the only legitimate way of doing so is by conducting an even more specific referendum, potentially with three options – such as a description of a light brexit (Norway Plus), a hard brexit and remain (the issue being whether the EU would be OK with this – which should be fine given the specificity of the referendum). Call this referendum final, and have the parliament commit and approve the framing and language of the referendum in advance, as well as, the full and immediate implementation of the will of the people. Another option, would be to put the referendum to the people with two options – Mrs. May’s deal (currently on the table) and Remain.

Bill JonesSenior Honorary Research Fellow,  Liverpool Hope University

Mrs May’s Conservatives  are desperate not to make to make concessions regarding Labour’s demand for a Customs Union as this would prevent signing of new trade deals worldwide.

If she did Brexit Cabinet members might resign en masse to bring her government down or Brexit faction might split off from the party.

Labour’s demand for a CU has wide support within the party but:

i) the majority want a second vote, rather than a CU.

ii) Corbyn knows any assistance given to May might cause more defections to the Independent Goup (now a separate new party to be called Change UK) or major rows because the Labour members would hate to see their party support an exit from the EU.

So I’m doubtful the talks will get anywhere and are really for ‘show’ by both party leaders- remember Corbyn has always supported leaving the EU on the grounds that it’s a ‘capitalist club’ which mostly benefits corporate interests and not working men and women.

Euro-elections are interesting though in that they might well become a kind of second referendum on EU. If Labour support Remain and win most seats, it’s possible Brexit will become impossible.

Oliver DaddowAssistant Professor in British Politics and Security, University of Nottingham

Corbyn’s priority has always been to secure a general election to enable him to deliver a “Labour Brexit”. I could even see him organising a vote for Labour behind May’s deal if she then agrees to stand down and call a General Election, in which he would campaign on the Harold Wilson (1974) pledge that he could have achieved better terms than the Conservative government (in this case for leaving rather than joining of course).

At the moment Corbyn seems content to play his cards close to his chest and would prioritise domestic politics over European policy. He might fall in behind Labour members and ask for a deal to be put to what would be a third referendum, if he felt it would result in the fall of the government and a general election. The European Parliament elections will therefore be very interesting to see where the parties pitch their manifestos, assuming UK takes part in them.

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