View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
12 July 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:21pm

May’s Brexit white paper finally provides clarity – neither MPs nor the EU will accept it

The Prime Minister is stuck between a rock and a hard place: her plans aren’t soft enough for Labour or Brussels, but are too soft for Tory Eurosceptics.

By Patrick Maguire

With today’s release of the white paper laying out the government’s plans for Brexit, Theresa May has finally given MPs and the EU27 the clarity they have been begging for.

Unfortunately, the only thing it really clarifies is that, in their current form, the government’s Brexit proposals will neither pass parliament nor be accepted by Brussels. 

Until today, the government’s problem was a lack of detail. Now there is plenty of it, but it’s almost exclusively the wrong detail as far as the people with whom May is negotiating in Brussels and Westminster are concerned.

It underlines a truth from which May hasn’t yet found an escape: that the Brexit she is proposing is too soft for a critical mass of her MPs, and neither soft nor hard enough for Brussels. 

While there has been a qualified welcome for some aspects of the paper from the EU – the European Parliament has welcomed its call for a Ukraine-style association agreement, for instance, and Ireland has welcomed its language on the backstop proposal for the border – it is clear that Brussels will demand further concessions.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Too many cherries are picked for it to be acceptable, and its convoluted, untested Frankenstein customs model – the facilitated customs arrangement – has already been privately dismissed as unworkable. 

Ordinarily, May would expect these sorts of problems to be ironed into a palatable compromise over the course of a negotiation. But as far as dozens of her own MPs are concerned, it is already a compromise too far; and no matter how many overtures Downing Street makes to Labour, its MPs will not vote for it. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg has dismissed its contents as “not something I would vote for nor… what the British people voted for”. Tory MP after Tory MP – more than enough to wipe out the government’s commons majority – made similar complaints in the Commons this afternoon.

The only way the Prime Minister could get them back on side would be to significantly harden the stances laid out in the white paper – which in most areas would effectively see the UK bend over backwards to maintain the same sort of economic relationship it currently has with the EU. 

To strike a deal with Brussels or have any hope of convincing any Labour MPs to cancel out those Tory rebels, May inevitably has to move in the opposite direction – that is, moving further into the vassaldom that is already exercising dozens of her MPs. Moving the other way means breaking promises on the Irish border. 

But regardless of the direction she chooses, there is one certainty: that the chances of a no deal Brexit being forced upon her are getting higher.

Content from our partners
Future proofing the NHS
Where do we get the money to fix the world's biggest problems? – with ONE
Labour's health reforms can put patients first

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU