Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn spoke to Hamas and IRA, but won’t talk to Theresa May – Christine Jardine

Jeremy Corbyn's request to Labour MPs not to meet Theresa May has been ignored by some (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty)
Jeremy Corbyn's request to Labour MPs not to meet Theresa May has been ignored by some (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty)
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With two months left until Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, who built his career speaking to those ostracised on the world stage, like the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah, is refused to talk to Theresa May unless she meets his pre-conditions, writes Christine Jardine MP.

Sometimes this week, it has felt like living in a movie plot. A horror movie plot.

You can almost see the billboards. “A divided Government suffers the biggest defeat in modern political history as parliament fights to avoid a national crisis. At the centre is an embattled Prime Minister. Will she survive in office? Can parliament avert a national crisis?”

Is this the beginning of the end for Brexit?

It might be funny if the chaos and uncertainty wasn’t completely true, and as chaotic in reality as it looks in the media. And so bad for all of us.

Every Monday for the past few months when parliament has been sitting, I have headed to London with a firm idea of what the next few days had in store. Every week there has been an unexpected plot twist that has plunged us all deeper into an unacceptable state of inertia.

With a deadline now less than 70 days away, I fear this week will be no different. I know there is a planned statement from the Prime Minister today. But that’s just the plan, and that’s as far as it goes.

Meanwhile the weekend TV, Radio and Sunday papers will have been full of speculation, predictions and inside information. My inbox will also be filled with correspondence from constituents justifiably keen to share their views and to know exactly what my position is.

Some of those who have come to speak to me at the weekend’s advice surgeries will have had the same questions. Many of them have serious issues affecting their lives, their health or their families. Problems which need sorting now, like issues with benefits, personal independence payments or visas.

All areas the Government and their civil servants should be focussing on, instead of being drawn into this Brexit Vortex which is threatening to cripple the body politic.

The vast majority of those constituents want to confirm that I will continue to reflect the overwhelming view of the people of Edinburgh West, expressed both in the referendum and the general election.

I shall have been honest with all of them. No, my position has not changed, I still want the public to have the final say on any deal. Change should have to be ratified.

No, I don’t think anybody does know what the Conservatives will do now. Nobody would have predicted anything that they have done so far. And no, I do not think that the SNP will succeed in using this to break up the UK.

READ MORE: Brexit: Why Jeremy Corbyn must talk to Theresa May – leader comment

If this is the chaos that leaving a 40-year-old Union has brought, how on Earth would they expect to break up a 300-year-old, hugely successful economic, political and family union without massive dislocation.

Increasingly, however, there is another question: Where exactly does the Labour Party stand in all this? For that I’m afraid I have no answer. I do, however, feel a huge amount of sympathy for many of my colleagues on the Labour benches.

It must be soul-destroying to be the official opposition to this Government, riven by internal division and argument.

You know that the public, your voters, want it stopped, and yet you find yourselves unable to hold the Government to account, make the change in direction we all need, because your leader will not come off the fence.

It’s like watching that scene from the Vicar of Dibbley where Dawn French plays Darcey Bussell’s reflection on the mirror as she dances. Again, it would be funny but...

Two people dancing on the head of the same pin on opposite sides of the despatch box, neither prepared to stop and ask: “Is this what the public really wants?”

For a moment last week, I thought they might have. As soon as the no-confidence vote was won, the Prime Minister appeared to offer an olive branch. Talks.

Almost immediately all the opposition leaders – including my own Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable – seized that offering. This could, after all, be the turning point.

Except, that is, for the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a man who has built his career on speaking to the ostracised in international politics. The IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah. But not, it seems, to our Prime Minister until she meets his conditions.

READ MORE: Brexit: Zombie Government must spring to life – leader comment

I was delighted that some senior and responsible members of the Labour Party have been to see the Prime Minister. There may yet be progress. We hope.

But the most frustrating thing for all of us is that while the Prime Minister and her team continue to promote a discredited and rejected deal that is massively flawed, the country is waiting.

There are also national problems to be solved and issues to be addressed.

There is a backlog of bills that have to be passed before we leave the EU or our laws will not make sense and our economy will grind to a halt.

And worst of all? It didn’t have to be this way.

Funny, that’s a phrase we use a lot about this Government.

If only we had gone into this with some idea of what we wanted at the end instead of vacuous nonsense like “Brexit means Brexit” and “No deal is better than a bad deal”.

Maybe if the Government had met its opponents first – including those in its own party – before triggering article 50, the Prime Minister could have come back from Brussels with something that had some hope of getting through parliament.

Where we once had two years, we now have just 67 days left to find a solution.

At least the Prime Minister is talking to others. We have to hope that they will all also be listening to each other. That some consensus might be found.

Maybe then this horror movie might actually have the happy ending we are all counting on.