Government ministers were summoned to an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon, where they were to be asked to sign off Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union (EU).
It was unclear whether it would be approved by the cabinet, and still more uncertain what will happen when it goes to parliament. May's crisis is far from over.
May had hoped to put a final draft of the withdrawal agreement with the EU to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
But it was impossible because the EU kept coming up with new issues and May was being repeatedly stabbed in the back by her own side.
Any failure to make progress in the talks almost certainly delays agreement at an EU level until a summit scheduled for December.
This makes it increasingly difficult for the promised “meaningful final vote” by MPs on any deal to be held before Christmas.
The delays increase the chances of Britain leaving the EU without a formal deal—a prospect that enrages big business.
Ministers have been in revolt against May. Jo Johnson, transport minister, resigned his post last week.
It showed that May’s Brexit proposals are now under fire not just from Tory pro-Leave zealots but also from those who backed Remain.
Johnson said, “We’re in the extraordinary position where even the staunchest advocates of Brexit, including my brother Boris, publicly admit we’d be better off staying in the EU than with the prime minister’s deal.”
Indeed, Boris Johnson called for a cabinet “mutiny” against the deal. And there are constant rumours that several cabinet ministers have not resigned yet only because they want to use their votes to defeat May’s plans.
These include Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt. Justine Greening, another Remain figure who resigned from the cabinet in January, supported Jo Johnson.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came under pressure from some Labour MPs for saying that “we can’t stop” Brexit.
Corbyn added, “The referendum took place. The issue now has to be how we bring people together.”
He said it was necessary to “recognise the reasons why people voted leave”.
This incensed Labour right wingers such as Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Chuka Umunna, who want a second referendum.
And shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer bluntly said, “Brexit can be stopped.”
He added that if May’s deal was defeated and there isn’t a general election then all options are on the table, including a “public vote”.
Starmer hopes to make such a vote into a second referendum to stop Brexit.
But the splits among the Tories should be the signal to increase the resistance to them on all fronts.
Break from neoliberal policies and racism—the Brexit we should fight for
Socialist Worker opposes the Tory vision of Brexit.
Their vision seeks to promote the interests of big business and bring in still more controls on migration.
It is driven by the desire to keep the Tories in office—and Jeremy Corbyn out.
Wages, jobs, the right to move between countries, the rights of EU nationals, the NHS and the environment don’t get a look in.
But the answer isn’t a second referendum or for Britain to stay in the EU.
The EU showed its true colours this week. Its officials demanded that, however Britain leaves the EU, it will have to follow state aid rules that restrict nationalisation and state intervention in the economy.
The EU is a mechanism to enforce racism and big business polices across a continent.
We see it in the Fortress Europe anti-migrant policies that lead to thousands of deaths.
We saw it in the bleeding and bullying of Greece when it tried to break free from austerity.
We would like to see May’s deal defeated by MPs, most probably triggering her resignation, and then for massive pressure to force a general election.
This could see the Tories dumped.
Labour should run in any such election on a Brexit that would maintain free movement for workers, welcome migrants and oppose privatisation and austerity.
It should dump the pro-business single market, and stress international workers’ unity.
That’s the agenda the trade unions should campaign for. The alternative to the Tories’ Brexit isn’t going back to the policies of David Cameron and George Osborne before the 2016 referendum.
It’s to break from the stultifying neoliberal consensus.
Neither Labour nor the union leaders are doing that. So we need more struggle in the workplaces and the streets against austerity and racism.
That’s the way to shape the Brexit debate in the interests of the working class.
Such a major issue cannot be left to feuding pro-business groups.