After a seven-hour Cabinet meeting, Theresa May took to her now-familiar podium to announce the next step in what she called this “decisive moment in the story of these islands”.
Saying she recognised there are “some who are fed up with delay and endless arguments”, the Prime Minister announced that “today I am taking action to break the logjam”. Hopes, perhaps, were raised, but only briefly as she revealed the substance of this non-breakthrough.
She was “offering to sit down” with Jeremy Corbyn to talk about a deal. But, just in case the Labour leader thought he would have any real say in the process, May added that “any plan would have to agree the current Withdrawal Agreement” – the same one that MPs have three times rejected in the Commons.
This is not a new strategy. Corbyn, the man prepared to meet Hezbollah, stormed out of a previous meeting with Theresa May because of the presence of Chuka Umunna, a former Labour MP who now sits with the Independent Group.
If the leaders of the UK’s two largest parties were more like the sensible and thoughtful MPs Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper, then a compromise might be possible. But May doesn’t seem capable of deviating and, given Corbyn’s main plan appears to be ousting May and winning the subsequent election, she’s unlikely to get any help from him.
Anticipating the failure of that meeting, May said “a number of options” could then be voted on by MPs, who have already been doing this off their own bat, rejecting all the options so far. However, May, who has been abstaining during the process, said this time the Government “stands ready to abide by the decision of the House”.
The Prime Minister also revealed the UK would ask the EU for an extension to our current extension, which lasts until 12 April, but it would be “as short as possible” so that British voters don’t have to take part in the European parliamentary elections on 23 May.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said plaintively that the EU “cannot be the hostage of a political crisis in the UK”.
In the days before a war, a common theme is that everyone agrees war will not break out because that would be crazy and no one wants it to happen. The majority of politicians say they do not want a no-deal Brexit because it would be crazy. Yesterday that prospect loomed ever larger.