As another crunch Brexit week approaches, Theresa May has used a video message to update the public on ‘what’s happening with Brexit’. With the Sunday papers filled with angry Conservative MPs venting about her decision to enter negotiations with Jeremy Corbyn in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock, the Prime Minister uses the address to try and justify her decision.
Let me explain what's happening with Brexit.pic.twitter.com/gjGkvFk8fT
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) April 7, 2019
Adopting a more casual tone that normal, May says that Parliament has rejected her deal three times and ‘as things stand’ there is little reason to expect MPs to back it on a fourth vote. This is why she has made the decision to talk to Jeremy Corbyn about what type of changes could lead to a majority supporting the deal in the Commons:
‘We’ve been looking for a new approach to find an agreement in Parliament and that means cross-party talks and when you think about it, people didn’t vote on party lines when it came to the referendum. I think people want to see their politicians working together more often.’
As for what that compromise will involve, May offers a few hints. She reiterates an end of freedom of movement remaining a red line. However, she does not mention the customs union:
‘Now there’s lot of things with which I disagree with the Labour party on policy issues, but on Brexit I think there are some things we agree on. Ending free movement, ensuring we leave with a good deal, protecting jobs, protecting security. It’ll mean compromise on both sides, but I believe that delivering Brexit is the most important thing for us.’
The video message from the Prime Minister appears to be May laying the groundwork for a change in Brexit policy later this week. The suspicion among Tory Brexiteers is that May will pivot to some form of customs union in the political declaration - potentially with the arrangement being written into the legislation so it’s harder for a future Tory leader to undo. Given that a permanent customs union would limit the scope for free trade deals significantly, such a move could well see ministerial resignations and a heavy backlash from many Tory MPs. Today’s message will do little to ease such concerns. Judging by the Prime Minister’s relaxed tone, she is ready to face any such backlash.