March 21, 2018
The political pathway to a Brexit revocation is closing
There was only a single scenario towards a Brexit revocation within the 12 months. It would start with some sort of a government crisis, brought about by either a Tory leadership election, or the defeat on some important legislation like the EU withdrawal bill. The election would produce a Labour-led government, supported by the SNP and the LibDems both of which are in favour of revocation. The smaller coalition partners could make a second referendum a condition for their support of the new government. If a Labour-led coalition or minority government were installed before end-March 2019, it could ask the EU to extend the Article 50 period until the referendum were held. That would probably be one of the few situations in which the EU would agree to an extension. And the referendum would have to be won.
The Skripal affair, and in particular the reaction by Jeremy Corbyn, have essentially put paid to this strategy. The polling evidence is not conclusive yet. The issue is not whether the British voters share the government's interpretation of Russian involvement, but the electoral impact on a Labour Party whose division are now more clear than ever before. Divided parties don't usually get elected to power. And, if by any chance Labour did get to power, the position of the moderates in the party is now so weak that they will not be able to forge the kind of coalition needed to start a successful process towards Brexit reversal.
As George Eaton notes, Jeremy Corbyn's hold over the Labour Party has strengthened after the failure of various plots against him. Momentum, the left-wing movement that supports him, has recruited members and has managed to get its own candidates selected in a third of the Labour constituencies, including some of the most marginal seats. The latest foray of the left comes in the form of the election of Jennie Formby, a Corbyn supporter, as Labour’s new general secretary. The result, Eaton writes, is that the left now has control of the party’s headquarters. The Lleft is now in control of the leadership of the party, the Scottish leadership, the National Executive Committee, as well as Labour HQ. And, while the majority of Labour MPs are not Corbynites, they are not in a position to stage an effective coup on their own.
We also liked the comment by James Kirkup, the director of the Social Market Foundation, who argued that this is not the time for the Labour moderates to stage a revolution. The party may not be salvageable, as one Labour MP put it to him. There are whispers of a new centrist party made up of disillusioned Labour moderates and Tory pro-Europeans. Kirkup said that, while he was personally sympathetic to such a project, moderate MPs are not ready for such a step. They have no plan to address the issues that gave rise to the populist revolution in both major parties - inequality and wealth distribution. He goes into a long list of policy changes needed to ensure a centrist party would win popular support.
"In short, my centrist friends, you may well need a new party, but first you need a new economic model."