Maybe it was a Brexit election after all? From the following day, and with increasing force, people are saying that hard Brexit is now impossible, that there is a parliamentary majority for soft Brexit – essentially membership of the single market and customs union – and that there should be a cross party vehicle of some kind to achieve consensus. Labour should steer clear of it.
First because there is unlikely to be consensus when the politicians have the courage to spell out what soft Brexit means. Even a bespoke deal rather than e.g., access to the single market via membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) will involve big compromises on free movement, EU law and budget contributions and there isn’t much sign of EU flexibility on any of this. Membership of the EEA alongside Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway would bring all the obligations without any of the rights that go with membership.
Second, because it will offer shelter to the Tories who got the country into this mess in the first place and haven’t yet paid the full political price. When the outlines of what they want to achieve, and what they actually achieve, in negotiations with Brussels becomes clear they will be politically vulnerable as never before. Labour should not come riding to their rescue, or take any responsibility whatever for the kind of soft Brexit that a majority of Tories now probably want.
And finally, it will be seen as a parliamentary political stitch up. There will be the usual claptrap about putting the interest of the country before party but it won’t disguise the fact that MPs would be trying to impose an agreement that none of their constituents actually voted for.
Labour should instead take the issues out to the country, explain what a ‘jobs-first’ (soft) Brexit means and ask the people about the kind of compromises the negotiators should make. When politicians talk about not revealing their hand in negotiations the only people being kept in the dark are the people that elected them.