BRUSSELS: The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, met senior EU officials in Brussels on Thursday after warning he may oppose any Brexit deal negotiated by the London government.
Corbyn, who told his party conference on Wednesday that a no-deal Brexit would be a “national disaster”, has nevertheless said his party will vote against any accord based on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan.
European officials and many EU member state leaders also oppose parts of May’s “Chequers” blueprint, but worry Britain could crash out of the bloc if an eventual deal is vetoed by British MPs.
Corbyn’s answer is to push May to call a general election, in the hope that Labour can win power and then negotiate an exit deal that he says would better protect jobs, trade and workers’ rights.
He told the Labour conference on Wednesday he would support any “sensible deal” May brings back from Brussels but warned: “if you can’t negotiate that deal then you need to make a way for a party that can”.
There is barely any time for such a plan to bear fruit, however — under the terms of Article 50 of the EU Treaty, Britain will leave the Union on March 29 next year, with or without a divorce deal.
May, meanwhile is in talks with EU negotiator Michel Barnier in hopes of striking a compromise arrangement that would keep Britain in a single market for goods while seeking a broader trade deal.
European leaders warn that this deal, which they insist must include special provisions for Northern Ireland that May has rejected out of hand, must be ready before a Brussels summit on October 18.
But if a deal is struck, perhaps then or perhaps at an expected extraordinary summit in mid-November, then it would have to be approved by both the British and EU parliaments.
This would appear to leave no time for Corbyn’s Labour to overthrow May’s Conservatives and to negotiate a Brexit in line with his own more worker-friendly vision.
Europe is therefore worried, and Barnier took the opportunity of Corbyn’s visit to Brussels to attend a tribute to murdered pro-Europe Labour MP Jo Cox to arrange a meeting.
Ahead of the talks, EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas refused to comment on reports that the powerful secretary general of the EU civil service, Martin Selmayr, is working on a plan for “no deal”.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2018