Jeremy Corbyn should end his Brexit talks with Theresa May now and carve out a radically different position to the government.
May’s offer of talks was an attempt to snare Labour into taking co-responsibility for a rotten Brexit deal or to blame Corbyn for the failure to reach a deal.
It was based on a false idea that there is a “national interest” that brings together workers who want an end to austerity and a government that is ruthlessly implementing austerity.
Any deal that May and the Tory cabinet find acceptable isn’t going to be in the interests of working class people.
It’s even more necessary to stop the talks after May on Friday asked the European Union (EU) for a near three-month delay to Brexit because of parliament’s rejection of her withdrawal treaty.
She wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk requesting an extension to the Article 50 divorce process under which Britain is supposed to leave the bloc on 12 April.
May proposed that the extension run until 30 June but admitted this means British participation in European Parliament elections.
Her extraordinary position is that these elections should be scheduled—and candidates should campaign—but then the elections could be cancelled at any time right up until polling day on 23 May.
Already the racists, the far right and fascists sniff an opportunity to cash in on the anger over the Brexit fiasco.
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said, “I’ll be leading the Brexit Party into those European elections as it now looks certain they will happen.
“I’m not going to watch British politicians roll us over. This is the fightback and they’re going to be very surprised by what they get.”
Ukip denounced Farage’s party as “an electoral vehicle for getting snouts back in the trough” and confirmed that it will run candidates in every region across Britain. Ukip leader Gerard Batten has recruited fascist Tommy Robinson as one of his advisers. .
May’s request for an extension would have to be agreed unanimously by the other 27 EU countries at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
May made a request for an extension to 30 June two weeks ago. The EU27 threw that out within an hour.
On Friday Tusk indicated that Britain could have a “flextension” running up to 12 April 2020, which would be shortened if MPs pass an exit treaty.
This is what May is likely to be offered. Either she accepts it or there will be a no-deal Brexit.
And even Tusk's offer might not be forthcoming. On Friday afternoon the French, German and Dutch governments all complained that May's letter did not provide enough clarity about how Britian might resolve the Brexit deadlock.
Perhaps May hopes to threaten a no deal and then say her deal that has been defeated three times by MPs is the only viable alternative. But that gamble is very likely to fail.
Tories in the European Research Group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg are already incensed that May is talking to “Marxist” Corbyn. They aren’t going to warm to the re-appearance of her deal.
Amid this chaos there needs to be a clear voice calling to link Brexit to other class issues. These include the destruction of the NHS, squeezed living standards, the brutal Universal Credit regime, the rise of racism, lack of action over climate change and much else.
But neither the trade union leaders nor Labour are doing this. Instead Corbyn inserts himself in to a process that is dedicated to producing a Brexit that serves big business.
This is not a time of “normal” politics. The British ruling class faces not just an economic or political or financial crisis but a combination of all these.
Sitting talking to May is the exact opposite of what’s needed.