EU watches politicians like Starmer and knows it does not need to move

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

In Dublin yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer outlined one aspect of the confused Labour Party position on Brexit, which is (in effect) to make sure that the EU has full control over the negotiations.

Sir Keir did not put it like that of course. He said that Westminster will “be forced” to step in to prevent Theresa May from “running down the clock” before March 29. Last week in Northern Ireland the Shadow Brexit secretary said that the backstop must be part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Sir Keir, unlike his party leader Jeremy Corbyn, is an EU enthusiast so there is some logic to his stances, which is to seek the softest possible Brexit.

But in taking the positions that he is taking, Brussels can see that it does not need to move on the deal that Parliament rejected. It knows that there is a huge Remain majority in Westminster, that will do what it can to thwart Brexit.

If Mrs May seeks to form a coalition with this majority, particularly with Labour moderates, she will probably succeed in getting a deal through the Commons.

She might, for example, get away with some sort of firm EU assurance on the backstop that does not in fact remove it.

If so, it might well be the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom, as Arlene Foster has said.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has warned Mrs May not to call an election, because it is not clear on what platform the Tories would fight it.

And a fellow Brexiteer Kate Hoey has said that a Brexit Party could sweep the board if it was to contest an election in which Brexit was seen to have been betrayed.

Given the victories of Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron to become their country’s presidents, against all the odds, Ms Hoey might well be right.

The PM is in a bind, for sure, and it will be tempting for her to go a long way towards placating Remain MPs, so that the UK gets BRINO — Brexit In Name Only. But if so, it will probably just lead to a eurosceptic backlash.