How seriously is Theresa May taking the possibility of extracting further concessions from the European Union over the backstop? Well, she held cordial and detail-heavy conversations with Jeremy Corbyn over the customs union, while ministers have met with Melanie Onn, a Labour frontbencher and Cooper amendment rebel, to discuss further legislation to guarantee workers’ rights after Brexit. Plus the Times reports that Downing Street is considering cash injections into seats with Labour MPs who might contemplate voting for the deal.
As the defeat of Yvette Cooper and Dominic Grieve’s amendments demonstrated, there is a sizable caucus of Labour MPs who don’t want a no-deal Brexit but don’t want to block Brexit at all. As I explain in my column this week, part of the motivation in voting down the Cooper amendment wasn’t that MPs disliked the content, but because they wanted to illustrate once and for all that there was no majority to be found for a second referendum.
These Labour MPs want to vote for some kind of Brexit deal, but they need some justification to do so first, but cash injections are a poor way of doing that. It also has a double benefit to May in demonstrating to the European Research Group that if they don’t fall in line then they may end up with a Brexit they find even less congenial than the one they have now.