For the second straight time, Theresa May’s own party cut her legs out from under her in her dealings with the European Union on Brexit. May failed to win an endorsement from Parliament for her efforts, with members of both the Tories and Labour worried that she was attempting to force them into a corner for accepting the first deal agreed to by the EU:
A band of eurosceptics led by Jacob Rees-Mogg abstained on a government motion because they were unhappy that the prime minister endorsed parliament’s decision to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
May’s defeat, by 303 votes to 258, showed the prime minister once again losing control of her own party in the crucial final weeks before Brexit.
The disunity is likely to cause fresh doubts in Brussels that she can win parliamentary support for the EU withdrawal agreement.
After the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded May come to Parliament to acknowledge that her strategy has failed and to account for herself:
"Vote shows there is no majority for the prime minister's course of action"
Government "cannot keep ignoring Parliament… without a coherent plan" – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responds as UK PM Theresa May suffers fresh #Brexit defeat https://t.co/NiQcjegPHS pic.twitter.com/eYRZJ5avB6
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) February 14, 2019
That’s hardly a Valentine’s Day message. Worse yet, Corbyn now plans to open his own negotiations with the EU in hopes of keeping the UK in its customs union:
Jeremy Corbyn will hold talks in Brussels next week with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, as he seeks to break the Brexit impasse and persuade Theresa May to sign up to a customs union.
The visit is likely to be highly unwelcome in Downing Street, and risks accusations that Labour is pursuing its own shadow negotiations, undermining the prime minister’s hopes of fresh EU concessions. …
Labour is seeking a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union, a close alignment with the single market and protection for standards and workers’ rights.
Corbyn also wants commitments on participation in EU agencies, funding programmes and security arrangements, such as the European arrest warrant, written into the deal.
The Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “There are enough people in Brussels already dedicatedly working against British national interests without Corbyn and his circus joining them.”
That’s not even a Brexit, at least in any form proposed thus far. Brexit intended on severing any authority over the UK by the EU except as outlined in a trading partnership between equal sovereignties. Bridgen has a point in his criticism; as long as the EU can negotiate with Corbyn, they can put May off, especially when it comes to the backstop and Ireland.
For now, May will continue to plead for an alternative to the backstop, but the EU had already dug in its heels, refusing to set a time limit or a mechanism for a unilateral withdrawal. Losing this vote won’t make May’s job any easier, especially with Corbyn in the mix. They may wonder what good it does talking to May at all, and how long she’ll be the Prime Minister after a series of failures to hold her parliamentary majority together.