GAVIN WILLIAMSON: A Brexit deal with Labour can only end in tears

A Brexit deal with Labour can only end in tears: Former Defence Secretary GAVIN WILLIAMSON on the agreement that is destined to fail

Brexit must happen. MPs need to deliver the referendum result and honour our promise to the electorate in 2017. It is tempting to think the easiest way to achieve this is to sit across the table from the Labour Party, do a deal and deliver Brexit. It sounds so simple and so reasonable, but it is destined to fail.

Even if Labour do a deal, break bread with the Prime Minister and announce that both parties have reached an agreement, it can only ever end in tears.

Why do I say this? Coming from a Labour-voting family, I grew up with a clear understanding of the tribal nature of Labour politics. The Labour Party does not exist to help the Conservative Party.

Jeremy Corbyn will do all he can to divide, disrupt and frustrate the Conservatives in the hope of bringing down the Government. His goal, and he has made no secret of it, is to bring about a General Election.

Labour are as divided on the issue of Brexit as the Conservatives, and a Brexit deal with them will only end in tears

The Prime Minister needs to understand that she now is seen by many in the Conservative Party as negotiating with the enemy. There is a clue in their title: Her Majesty’s Official Opposition.

Their priority is to derail the Government. When push comes to shove, the Labour Party will do all they can to cause the Government to fail.

Even if we get to a point where Jeremy Corbyn agrees a deal with the Prime Minister, when it comes to detailed scrutiny of the votes, Labour will revert to form. It will be an almost unprecedented challenge to guide the necessary legislation through the House of Commons. Even if it passes the first few votes, it will fail later.

The initial thinking is that combining Labour and Conservative forces will easily pass any legislation, but there are some tough realities.

Numbers mean everything in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party will not march through the lobbies with the Prime Minister to back any old agreement, especially if it is far removed from the Brexit that was promised. If she is able to gain the support of the bulk of the Conservative parliamentary party, she will be doing exceptionally well, but in reality we could end up with a situation where she goes through the lobbies with less than half the Conservative MPs. The only people on whom she can depend are those on the payroll.

We then turn to Labour. Labour are as divided on the issue of Brexit as the Conservatives. There could potentially be up to 80 Labour MPs who are so committed to a second referendum, a so-called People’s Vote, that they will vote against any deal agreed by the Labour front bench. The Liberal Democrats, SNP and Change UK will all be voting against any deal she puts forward, because what they want is not to facilitate our exit from the EU, but to ensure that we stay.

This leaves us with a series of knife-edge votes, at which the Government will likely suffer a number of defeats.

Even if an agreement is voted through, by the time it has gone through both the House of Commons and House of Lords, it will be a very different bill to what was first proposed.

Jeremy Corbyn will do all he can to divide, disrupt and frustrate the Conservatives in the hope of bringing down the Government

This is when Labour will finally kill it, if they have not done so already. Labour will be able to credibly say it is not what was originally agreed between them and the Prime Minister.

It is politically naive to go down this route. It will struggle to deliver the numbers for votes and it separates the Prime Minister from her own parliamentary party. And importantly, it has frustrated many of the people who voted Conservative in the 2017 General Election.

This creates enormous problems for the future and is something that should be avoided at all costs. The nation is expecting us to deliver Brexit and to move on. The Prime Minister needs to recognise that futile efforts to pull off this Labour deal are damaging us all.

It is a grave mistake for any Prime Minister to fail to recognise when a plan will not work and it is fatal to press on regardless. It is vital that imagination and boldness are now deployed, accepting that these Labour talks, which have gone on for weeks, are never going to provide the solution to the problem the Prime Minister faces.

The Conservative Party needs to be the party that delivers on its promises. If it is able to do this, it will flourish and be the party that voters know they can trust. We need to accept that these talks with Labour are fruitless and that not only will they not deliver the Brexit that people voted for, they are a betrayal of the direct instructions the people gave us in 2016 and 2017.

We are now at a crossroads and it is imperative the Prime Minister makes the right choice.

In order to deliver Brexit, there has to be a clear-sighted determination of what you are wanting to deliver, as opposed to delivering the lowest common denominator.

The only way to deliver anything is by ensuring you have your own tribe and your own people with you 100 per cent of the way.

This is what has to be delivered – not doing a deal with Labour. 

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