Wednesday 16 January 2019
Jeremy Corbyn just doesn't get it.
In his response to the government's dramatic defeat in the Commons last night Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the most serious crisis facing the country was that we are led by an incompetent government. Therefore he was moving a motion of no confidence in it.
He was wrong. True the government is incompetent, and most of us can't see much sign of competence in the official opposition either. But that is not the most serious crisis facing the country.
The most serious crisis facing the country is that we can't make up or minds what to do about Brexit.
Unless we take pre-emptive measures, we have only 72 days to go before we leave the EU without any deal at all, which is almost universally regarded as catastrophic..
So if there were any sense in our politics, every single hour and every ounce of political energy between now and the 29th March should be devoted to trying to reach agreement on the best, or failing that the least worst, solution, either for parliament to implement itself, or to put to the people in anther referendum
Instead Corbyn and his fellow Labour leaders will spend the day lobbing pretty predictable accusations against the government. He and some of this supporters will presumably enjoy it.
There is no shortage of easy targets: the dire consequences of universal credit; feeble attempts to solve the housing crisis; increasingly precarious employment; squalid conditions in out prisons;a roaring balance of payments deficit; appallingly low productivity; transport policy chaos; continued harmful privatisation in the NHS; growing inequality between peoples and the regions; our international reputation besmirched as we appearer to prefer to leave refugees to drown in the Channel rather than rescue them.
None of these problems would be made any more solvable by leaving the EU: in fact, most would become more difficult.
The government will produce some stilted defences and the "no confidence" motion will be lost.
Even if it were to be won, does anyone seriously believe that we should abandon finding solution to Brexit for three weeks or so in order to have a general election? Or that a general election campaign would be conducted exclusively on Brexit?
No wonder the rest of the world looks on us a slightly bonkers, and an increasing number of our own people regard our politics as an irrelevant game played by politicians for their own amusement and with little relevance to their own lives.
Here, as far as I can see, are the various possible Brexit options on which our MPs, instead of a showcase debate, should be concentrating:.
1. The Norway option: this involves remaining in the Customs Union and Single Market , assuming the existing EFTA members would allow us to join them. It would do least economic damage. However it would entail following all the EU rules, existing and future (in which we should have no share in making) and continuing to allow free movement of capital, goods, services and labour. It would avoid any problem on the Northern Ireland border, but we should still be subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ (on which we should no longer have any representation) and continue to pay a "membership fee." It is effectively "Brexit in name only" or BINO.
2. The Canada option: this would give tariff free access for most goods, though there might be some customs checks to assess regulatory compliance. Trade in services would however, be much more limited and could probably not include financial services.
3. LEXIT: a "left wing version of Brexit," the details of which have not yet been specified, but which the Labour party thinks it would be able to negotiate and which would better protect jobs, wages and employment standards than the May deal. Most commentators regard it as "having your cake and eating it." Presumably the implementation of Article 50 would have to be postponed (which would require the agreement of the 27 remaining countries) in order to give put the clothes on this option.
4. No deal: simply leaving on the 29th March and trading with the EU and the rest of the world on WTO terms. This is the preferred option of the most ardent of the Brexiteers. Interestingly Jacob Rees Mogg rebuked a commentator for referring to it as "crashing out." That , he claimed, showed bias from someone who should be neutral. Most commentators thinks this would be the most damaging outcome for our economy. Even Rees Mogg has admitted that it might take 50 years to see the benefits. Some Brexiteers claim that if we took this option we should not pay the £39bn "divorce bill" though most others would see that as an international obligation to which the UK is legally and morally committed.
5. After discussing all of the above, and perhaps even agreeing on a preferred option, putting the matter again to the people in another referendum.
6. Deciding that there is no option anywhere near as good for our economy, reputation, cultural, scientific and political standing as revoking Article 50 (which we can do unilaterally) and Remaining.