The Brexit policies of both the Tories and Labour have multiple flaws, writes our Guest Writer for Today, Hugo Dixon.
But at least Jeremy Corbyn would seek common ground with the EU. Theresa May, by contrast, is likely to take an antagonistic approach which could lead to us crashing out of the bloc with no deal.
That, of course, is not the prime minister’s spin. Her argument today was that Corbyn would find himself “naked in the negotiating chamber” when Brexit talks start next month if he wins the election.
Labour’s approach to Europe is far from perfect. It wants to pull us out of the EU’s single market, which is responsible for half our trade.
That would be bad for the economy. It has also rejected the idea that the people should be asked to confirm that they want to leave the EU once they know what Brexit really means.
Corbyn himself doesn’t inspire confidence. Would he be on top of the detail? Does he know how to negotiate?
These flaws, however, are trumped by May’s. For a start, she keeps threatening to quit the EU without a deal if she can’t get a good one. This would be bonkers – and not just because it would trash our economy, which will be harmed anyway by her decision to quit the EU’s customs union as well as the single market.
The prime minister also relishes her reputation as a “bloody difficult woman”. She seems to be limbering up for a fight with our EU partners – criticising them today for their “aggressive negotiating position” – in part because that’s what the hardliners in her party and backers in the media want.
But she doesn’t appreciate that the EU holds more of the cards than we do, and that such antagonistic tactics could easily end in tears.
Meanwhile, May has a passion for secrecy, which led to her putting her so-called dementia tax into the Tory manifesto without discussing it in cabinet. The same character trait is likely to lead to mistakes in the Brexit talks.
Corbyn is much more conciliatory. His promise to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain the first day he is in Downing Street will change the mood music in other European capitals.
The leader of the opposition also doesn’t have to worry about hardline Brexiters in his party pushing him into extreme positions.
What, though, about the prime minister’s contention that Corbyn is weak? She says he has “lurched chaotically from half-baked plan to half-baked plan” and “this is no time for a weak leader to be making it up as they go along.”
Well, the leader of the opposition certainly doesn’t look strong. But neither does the prime minister. Her multiple flip-flops – most recently over the dementia tax – have been noted in Brussels.
How dreadful that the British people have a devil’s choice on June 8 between these two deeply flawed leaders. But, on Brexit at any rate, Corbyn is the lesser of two evils.
- Hugo Dixon is a journalist, entrepreneur and campaigner. He is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of InFacts and also co-founder of CommonGround. He writes columns for Reuters, Breakingviews, The Guardian and other publications. He is also author of The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better.
- This article first appeared on InFactsand is re-published with their kind permission. Link: infacts.org/corbyn-lesser-two-evils-may-brexit/
- Graphic by Jon Danzig