Keir Starmer will need to force far more from the government
Faced with a backbench revolt, Theresa May has backed down and agreed to publish the government’s plans for Brexit ahead of the triggering of article 50. But could the celebrations of pro-European MPs be premature?
While the government has committed to publishing a plan, it has not indicated what will be included in the document. And given the prime ministers extraordinary tendency to respond to serious questions with vacuous soundbites — Brexit means red white and blue Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it and get the best deal for the United Kingdom — there’s a risk that this plan will simply offer more of the same.
Robert Peston cites sources who say it will comprise ‘very high-level principles of the kind we already know’, committing to reasserting control of immigration policy and not being subject to the ECJ, without containing concrete information on priorities, timelines or direction of travel.
This outcome seems highly probable, considering that at present the UK government clearly has no idea what it’s doing. Just yesterday, Downing Street was surprised to learn that the EU is only allowing 18 months for negotiations, although that timeline has been established in Brussels for some time.
Keir Starmer is demanding a plan be published in January — one month away. There’s no reason to believe that a government that has spent five months thrashing about and sabotaging itself will suddenly snap into action and produce a satisfactory negotiating plan over a period of weeks.
Instead, we can expect more empty statements and obfuscation, poorly disguised as a ‘not showing our hand’ strategy.
Yesterday’s victory shows that Labour can offer serious opposition on Brexit, forcing the government to up its game. But Starmer and his colleagues have a lot more to do.
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