By Charlie Kimber
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Brexit unity is wobbly as Theresa May seeks EU settlement

This article is over 2 years, 11 months old
Issue 2640
Theresa May is manoeuvring between tragedy and farce
Theresa May is manoeuvring between tragedy and farce (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)

Theresa May faces another tortuous twist over Brexit with headlines about her “triumphs” already turning to dust.

The government remains stunningly weak and is surviving only from day to day.

May avoided another humiliating defeat in parliament last week by urging MPs to vote to ditch a key element of her Brexit deal.

What’s behind the hard border debate in Ireland?
What’s behind the hard border debate in Ireland?
  Read More

This is the deal that she had said for months was the only deal, could not be amended fundamentally and was the sole alternative to no deal or no Brexit.

An amendment that passed by 317 to 301 said the backstop over the Irish border should be “replaced with alternative ­arrangements to avoid a hard border”.

This managed to bring together the large majority of the Tories, DUP bigots and a few Labour MPs.

But nobody knows what it means, and even before the vote was held the EU had made clear it wasn’t going to budge. It was fake unity around a fake programme.

May was expected to return to Brussels this week to seek revisions to the withdrawal treaty.

The Alternative Arrangements Working Group this week discussed what a different border regime could look like.

It included hardcore Leavers as well as former Remainers.


It’s unlikely there will be consensus. Before the group had met one of its members warned there was “trouble ahead” unless May re-opens the whole Withdrawal Agreement and removes the backstop entirely.

As May prepared for her desperate quest, car firm Nissan abandoned the planned expansion of its Sunderland factory to build the new X-Trail model. The company said clearly that “business reasons”—the desire to make more profit—are behind the decision.

But it added that “the continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not ­helping companies like ours”.

This triggered speculation of mass job losses unless politicians bow to bosses’ demands to halt Brexit or ensure a deal that protects ­companies’ interests.

Every announcement of job losses, driven by corporate policies, is likely to be camouflaged by talk of Brexit. Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn—now facing charges of financial misconduct—promised May after the Brexit referendum that it would ­produce the X-Trail at the Sunderland site.

But the company faced problems meeting the latest emission rules using the diesel engines that it buys from Renault in France. Nissan had already said it would not launch another new diesel car after 2021.

The Financial Times newspaper said, “To make petrol versions of the X-Trail in the UK would require shipping engines from Japan, something the business considered commercially unviable.”

While politicians and the media are fixated on Brexit, the bosses avoid responsibility for putting profits before people.

Chaos in Corbyn’s Labour

While the Tories are on the rocks, Labour faces its own divisions.

John Mann wants an investment package

John Mann wants an ‘investment package’ (Pic: Chris McAndrew/

The Observer newspaper claimed last weekend that it “has been told by multiple sources that at least six MPs have been drawing up plans to resign the whip and leave the party soon”.

Their reasons centre on Brexit, alleged antisemitism in the party, and Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to back the coup in Venezuela.

Any such split would be a repeat of the breakaway of 1981 when a handful of Labour MPs broke away to form the Social Democratic Party. They helped Margaret Thatcher to win the 1983 election.

The Parliamentary Labour Party discussed antisemitism on Monday evening.

MPs passed a motion demanding action from the leadership over antisemitism within seven days.

Meanwhile John Mann MP said he was one of several Labour MPs who might back Theresa May’s Brexit deal if there was an “investment package” for Leave-voting areas.


The areas targeted by the funds are the ones the Tories devastated through industrial closures and a war on the trade unions in the 1980s.

It would be outrageous to allow the Tory government to survive in return for a tiny portion of the money stolen in the past.

Instead of talking to May, trade union and Labour leaders should be organising resistance to the government, fighting to bring it down and to force a general election.

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