British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn should meet prime minister Theresa May privately to discuss BREXIT. In fact he should have pushed for such a meeting months ago.
At one of the most pivotal moments in the country’s history, there is need for extraordinary steps by our elected officials. Corbyn should remove any pre-conditional excuses and see May at Downing Street.
In the past few days May has promised to listen to the views and opinions from across party lines. Finally, after nearly 9 years in government May has realised the importance of hearing voices of those beyond her tiny echo chamber.
2 years ago some civil servants raised serious concerns over May’s initial handling of the UK’S BREXIT plans. There was a sense that her team were not taking the issues seriously or with the urgency desired.
In July 2017, Gus O’Donnell, former head of the civil service said:
“There is no chance all the details will be hammered out in 20 months….We will need a long transition phase and the time needed does not diminish by pretending that this phase is just about ‘implementing’ agreed policies as they will not all be agreed.”
Lord Jonathan Marland, a former trade envoy, under David Cameron said :
“My fear is that Whitehall as a whole has really not got the skill set to deliver a really hard-nosed negotiation and I think we have really got to upskill in that area to do it. If you’re too hard on negotiation you don’t win. Any negotiation has got to have something that’s in it for both parties”
As far back as November 2016 frustration amongst civil servants involved in the BREXIT negotiations was common. Many were angry that – as usual – May’s office had centralised control; that May and her inner circle lacked communication skills and that her team had been too quick to adopt an aggressive approach to anyone offering independent advice.”
May and her advisers are mostly to blame for the current BREXIT negotiation debacle. Her lack of leadership and grasp of the severity of BREXIT has been unforgivable but not surprising.
But I have to also apportion blame to former prime minister David Cameron for not firing May as Home Secretary for her countless insubordination and poor performance – e.g. on immigration and crime. If Cameron had acted then we would never had someone as ill-prepared as May to lead the country’s exit from the EU.
In 2017, Ivan Rogers resigned from his post as UK Ambassador to the European Union. Rogers had earlier warned that it could take up to a decade to ratify a post BREXIT trade deal with the EU. Rogers was realistic in his analysis but that riled the pro-leave campaigners, politicians and media houses.
So Corbyn should swallow his pride and preconditions, meet May and seize the upper hand in taking the UK out of the EU with the best possible deal.
- Corbyn needs to remember that during his days of supporting Sinn Fein/IRA he was one of few Labour MPs pushing for the then Conservative government to have unconditional talks with the Republican paramilitaries. Let’s face it, those talks and initial devolved government did lead to the most unlikeliest partnerships between Ian Paisley Snr and Martin McGuinness.
- We saw during the 2008 global economic crisis where then US President George W. Bush sat down together with Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to go over what measures needed to be taken to stem the recession.
When it comes to such important issues leaving the BREXIT negotiations in hands of just civil servants and the Conservative government was a bad idea from the beginning. The level of expertise necessary for such high level negotiations should have been more broadly spread and include those former individuals with healthy diplomatic experiences with the EU.
EU officials have had decades of public ridicule by UK politicians and the right wing media. So the idea of EU leaders rushing to a speedy and fair deal within 2 years to appease the Brits was never going to happen. Not with the likes of anti EU ministers such as David Davis, Boris Johnson at the forefront. This was the EU’s officials revenge to stick it to the Brits – especially the Conservative government who even now has a pompous attitude towards EU officials.
There was never a need for Theresa May to have gone with the late Jeremy Heywood plans to create a BREXIT department and a dedicated Cabinet Minister. Having 3 BREXIT Secretaries of State in the past 12 months is a clear sign it did not go toot well. Which was why a competent Foreign Secretary should have had oversight of BREXIT supported by dedicated junior ministers and former EU ministers from previous governments.
What is keeping May afloat during her calamitous premiership is the media’s collective hatred of Corbyn. No matter how badly May and her team have handled the BREXIT plans, the media seem keener to paint Corbyn as the cause for the negotiation failures.
Corbyn should go into Downing Street with a cross section of Labour MPs but bring a couple top negotiators. I would advise Corbyn to invite the likes Gus O’Donnell and Ivan Rogers.
The optics of Corbyn walking out of 10 Downing Street and giving a press conference at the steps would do wonders for his push to return there more permanently after the next general elections.
The problem with Corbyn and May is that for much of their political careers both have had a lukewarm attitude towards the EU. Until she became Home Secretary May was an ardent euro-sceptic. Watching May go back and forth to Brussels shows a leader in desperation mode. It’s the sort of behavior you would expect to see from a junior civil servant or a runner on a film set.
Now is not the time to draw red lines. If there is need for an extension until the end of 2019 to get a better deal in place then Corbyn and May should agreed to do so. Let the Farages and Boris Johnsons scream their heads off in outrage. It is very clear that the UK is far from been prepared for a smooth transition from the EU.
I for one will miss the UK not being part of the EU for professional, cultural and social reasons. Having worked with public servants from all member nations for 2 decades we did deliver improvement across public services and achieve great success away from the headlines. Collaborating with colleagues in other EU states was a unique experience. The UK public services have gained greatly from those numerous collaborations. But we have to respect the will of the majority who wanted out of the EU.
I have little time for those “Remainers” pushing for a 2nd referendum. It would be a dangerous route to take to ignore the results of the 1st referendum and proceed for a second vote. Some of those “Remainers” are the same folks who told the nationalists in Scotland to shut up and accept the results of the 2014 referendum for independence.
Some of the most vocal “Remainers” who are doing their best to stop BREXIT need to look in the mirror and accept there are partly to blame for the current position the UK is in right now.
Take for example “Remainers” such as Tony Blair and his chief political surrogates. It was under the Blair government in 2004 where the seeds of BREXIT started to gather momentum. As the then government laughed at those concerned over the EU’s expansion to former Eastern Bloc. This miscalculation over the number of immigrants by the Blair government gave much renewed voice to the anti-EU brigade especially the Daily Mail, The Sun and Telegraph papers. As the pressures on public services to meet the growing influx of EU immigrants was overwhelming for some local authorities.
Which was why as PM (1997-2007), Blair promised a EU referendum but never went through with offering the public such a vote. As Blair knew he had messed up over projections of migration and such a referendum -even then -was too risky.
The rush by the May government to clinch a BREXIT deal by March 2019 was always foolhardy. The UK’s bind to the EU is so entrenched it was bound to take some time to reach a satisfactory conclusion. But today we live in a society where the impatience & disgruntled want results and outcomes last week.
The negotiations for a fair EU deal should have taken at least 5 years and allow input from all concerned parties. The vagaries and peculiarities of the UK links to the EU are just too monumental to dismantle along partisan political lines in the space of two years.
As for the “No Deal” merchants it would be irresponsible for any UK prime minister to walk away without some satisfactory deal. Especially at this late cut-off point of March 29. Britain aint that Great anymore for such bravado swashbuckling maneuvers.
Last week’s motion of no confidence against May’s government – filed by Corbyn and ensuing debate – was uncalled for as there was no way the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party would give Corbyn such as victory. Corbyn would have been better off organising his team to meet with May.
Both would never admit it publicly – and maybe to themselves – but May and Corbyn need each other to get the fairest possible EU deal across the line. No shame in asking for the UK parliament to agree on an extension until the end of December 2019. Breakups are never straight forward.