ANDREW ADONIS: 'Remain disunity has been outdone by Tory civil war'

PUBLISHED: 10:12 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:12 19 September 2019

Boris Johnson (centre) in the House of Commons with Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson (centre) in the House of Commons with Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/PA Wire.

The Remain alliance has made a number of mistakes over the last three years, but none as bad as the blunders of the Brexiteers, says ANDREW ADONIS.

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The Brexit endgame is nigh. To win we need a strong Remain alliance. So far so good, thanks to Boris Johnson and the poll tax properties of Brexit which make it virtually impossible in any event.

Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Jo Swinson and Caroline Lucas must forge a democratic pact in face of the Johnson-Farage-Trump-Putin axis of populism. This is still a work in progress. But they are moving in the same direction and accelerating faster than their domestic opponents.

The story of the last three years, since the day after the 2016 referendum, is that every Remain mistake has been trumped by Leave. Remain disunity has been outclassed by Tory civil war, and for all the criticism of Corbyn, he has outshone May and so far Johnson in both tactics and strategy.

It doesn't always seem like this as squabbles continue between the Remain parties and Corbyn makes yet another statement about the possibility of a Labour Brexit. But look at what has actually happened and is about to happen.

Acting with unity and urgency in the days before Johnson suspended parliament, the opposition parties and sensible Tories enacted legislation to rule out no-deal and require the government to apply for an extension of Britain's membership of the EU in a month's time.

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All the opposition parties, including Labour, are now united on holding a referendum with an option to remain. Corbyn will campaign for Remain if that referendum is held on a Johnson deal or no-deal. This could be the option adopted at the end of October by the same cross-party alliance, including the Gauke-Hammond group of moderate Tories, in order to trump any Johnson deal conjured up in the next fortnight.

True, Swinson, with delusions of turning scores of constituencies yellow, did a riff this week on cancelling Brexit by parliamentary vote, on the same day that Corbyn talked of negotiating a Labour Brexit. But yellow pigs don't fly, and a crimson Brexit would go to a referendum to be eviscerated by red, blue, yellow, green and black.

For Labour Remainers, who are the overwhelming majority of the party's MPs and members, the key thing is that Corbyn is now firmly committed to a referendum with an option to Remain. That Corbyn may put forward a Brexit option and stay neutral doesn't ultimately matter. Virtually every other leading Labour figure will be campaigning to stay in.

After his mauling in Luxembourg and the Supreme Court, what will Johnson do next? His every move in the last three weeks has been a disaster: prorogation, non-talks with EU leaders, expelling Tory moderates, and failed attempts to halt the 'end of no-deal' legislation and force an immediate election.

Like his disastrous foreign secretaryship, the best bit of the Johnson premiership came at the beginning, dreadful though it was. He now has three dire options: attempting to enforce no-deal, attempting a new deal, or applying for the extension, hoping he survives, and then making it up as he goes along.

It doesn't look viable for Johnson to disobey the law and the constitution - again - by not applying for an extension if there is no majority for a deal. In that event either the Supreme Court instructs him and/or parliament intervenes, probably by a motion of no confidence leading to an interim government which applies for the extension and holds a referendum.

As for a new deal, the only thing doing the rounds is the May deal with the original Northern Ireland-only backstop. It is virtually impossible to count the parliamentary votes in a way that this gets a majority. Tory right and left alike will be mindful that it guarantees a ferocious guerrilla war on all sides, not least from Farage and a rejuvenated Brexit party.

So by elimination, it looks like Johnson sends the letter. Then crosses his fingers and announces Plan... I've lost count.

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