Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to form a cross-party coalition against Theresa May’s draft Brexit plan is laudable but may well be too late.
At the 11th hour, members of an informal group of British politicians dubbed the ‘Sensible Party’ are finally attempting to form a broad “coalition of opposition” against both a no-deal Brexit and Theresa May’s draft plan.
But, just as May has dithered and delayed for more than two years, so too have those among the SNP, Conservatives and Labour who say they wish to save the UK from Brexit’s contradictions and serious potential for economic catastrophe. When historians come to write about this period of British politics, surely one of the central questions will be why so little was achieved by all sides in the period after the EU referendum.
Nicola Sturgeon said she had held “exploratory” talks with Jeremy Corbyn yesterday in the hope of finding a “workable alternative” to May’s deal. She also met Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, in an attempt, as he put it, to find a solution to “the worst political crisis I’ve ever seen”.
The Tory Brexiteers’ claims that they will be able to negotiate a better divorce deal with the EU – after they finally manage to persuade 48 MPs to submit a letter of no confidence in May, oust her as leader and then install one of their own in her stead – are laughable. But the Sensible Party’s timetable seems to make a mockery of the name. Sturgeon said her meeting with Corbyn was “friendly”, adding that a common position would be required in the “next couple of weeks” – a deadline after the 25 November summit when the 27 other EU members are due to meet to “finalise and formalise the Brexit agreement”, according to European Council President Donald Tusk. So that common position may actually emerge at something closer to the 13th hour.
Why could it have not been agreed well in advance? That way a genuine alternative Brexit plan – one acceptable to the EU and a majority of MPs – would have been ready to be adopted as soon as the Commons rejects, as seems likely, May’s proposals.
Instead, politicians may well be scrambling around, trying to cobble something together over Christmas. A simple alternative plan would be for the UK to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union. The EU might just accept that; Brexiteers – possibly including Corbyn – would not.
Amid all this uncertainty, as the clock ticks, the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit, not by choice, but by accident.