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Wednesday 3 April 2019

Theresa May has two engagements with Jeremy Corbyn today, the usual tepid tussle at PMQs before a meeting with him and his entourage at Downing Street this afternoon following last night’s potentially fatal entreaty to the opposition to further dilute EU withdrawal. This was just the latest desperate bid in a long long line of bad moves by an underqualified prime minister hellbent on getting a deal, any deal, over the line in spite of her vow to do the exact opposite.

Out of the traps early were the DUP, issuing a statement criticizing the PM for her latest error.

“The prime minister’s lamentable handling of the negotiations with the EU means she has failed to deliver a sensible Brexit deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom. That is why she has not been able to get it through parliament.”

“It is very disappointing that the cabinet has decided to entrust the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party,” tweeted Boris Johnson, referring to yesterday’s seven-hour meeting, during which ministers agreed to reach out to the opposition.

“It now seems all too likely that British trade policy and key law making powers will be handed over to Brussels – with no say for the UK.”

On the Today programme (click here, 2 hrs 30 mins), Jacob Rees-Mogg made a scathing assessment of Mrs May: “I have more confidence in Theresa May than Jeremy Corbyn, but that’s not a high bar.”

Rees-Mogg also struck out at broadcaster Mishal Husain for pestering him about retweeting a speech by Germany’s AfD Party, lambasting her for “typical” BBC “leftie” obsession. Bravo! Ensure to check it out.

In her Downing Street address last night, May said she was looking to extend Article 50, but only for a short period.

“I’m offering to sit down with the Leader of the Opposition to try to agree a plan that we would both stick to… Any plan would have to agree the current withdrawal agreement.

“The ideal outcome of this process would be to agree an approach on a future relationship that delivers on the result of the referendum, that both the Leader of the Opposition and I could put to the House for approval and which I could then take to next week’s European Council.”

May’s deal is still very much on the table. Her determination to avoid a longer delay hints at ultimately sticking with the current plan. Adding the Customs Union – a longstanding Corbyn priority – together with other bits and pieces such as workers’ rights that he will insist on are straightforward enough to incorporate in principle but will take time to arrange with the EU, meaning an extension well beyond May 22, our leaving date if May’s deal is accepted.

The hideous product of these negotiations will frighten Tory Brexiteers, Downing Street will hope they take bite their tongues and vote for the same damn deal (see tweet below).

What we know for certain, is the government has absolutely no intention of allowing No Deal to happen, thereby forcing pro-Brexit MPs to choose between two evils.

Also on the Today programme (click here, 2 hrs 10 mins) this morning was Steven Barclay, who refused to rule out either the Customs Union or a second referendum, but the same did not apply to No Deal. The original deal is also still on the table.

A softer Brexit “is undesirable, but it’s the remorseless logic of the House of Commons, if the prime minister’s deal won’t go through and No Deal in law is taken off the table, then the consequence of that is either a softer Brexit, or no deal at all.” Truly frightening.

The other question is whether Corbyn will want to do a deal. It’s only a matter of time until he gives in to his party’s suffocating demands for a second referendum. An arrangement with the government offers him a way out. Downing Street has also backed him into a corner. If he isn’t seen to respond, he will be the one saddled with the blame for No Deal Brexit, which his followers will not countenance.

We’ll take the WTO option under any circumstances, even if it comes courtesy of an avowed enemy of Britain. The likelihood, however, is that Mr Corbyn will come to an agreement, rupturing the Tories in the process as May haemorrhages votes on her side, counterbalanced by new Labour votes.

Barclay’s reference to No Deal being taken off the table in law relates today’s third takeover of the House of Commons by Oliver Letwin. Having failed miserably to get a majority behind any particular fake-Brexit option – including the Customs Union – Letwin has changed tack, allowing Yvette Cooper’s no-to-No-Deal private member’s bill onto the order paper. The draft legislation (not up to us, but the EU, that’s the 2019 vintage of MPs for you) legislation has been waiting in the wings for some time, and has a pre-prepared majority – two non-binding motions have already been passed.

So it looks like we have a choice between May’s Brexit in name only and Corbyn’s. We deserve so much better.