Politics update: May makes new legal proposals for backstop to EU, eighth Labour MP quits to join independent group

Politics update 11.03.2019 Brexit Talks Stallled

Good morning. Here’s your daily Politics Update:

May will make legal proposals for the backstop to EU

Theresa May Jean-Claude Juncker

Theresa May is preparing to head to Brussels today, where she is expected to present EU leaders with new legal proposals for the Irish border backstop.

The prime minister hopes to gain legal assurances that the backstop would not permanently bind the UK into a customs union, which Downing street hopes will win the support of Eurosceptic MPs in the Conservative party.

May rules out ‘Malthouse compromise’

Earlier the same day, Theresa May told her cabinet ministers that the ‘Malthouse compromise’ cannot replace the backstop, which could hurt her chances of winning that vital support from Eurosceptics in her party.

Philip Hammon confirmed on Tuesday that the proposals, which would see yet-decided technological solutions to avoid a hard border in Ireland, would not be pursued any further by the government.

The compromise, named after Tory MP Kit Malthouse, and championed by cross-factional MPs including Eurosceptic Steve Baker and soft Brexiter Nicky Morgan, may have seen the prime minister win the support of the European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg – Rees-Mogg has previously given his full support to Malthouse.

Eight Labour MP resigns from party to join independent group

Joan Ryan MP

Joan Ryan has become the eighth MP to resign from the Labour party, and join the other 7 MPs who broke away to form the independent group on Monday.

Ryan, the MP for Enfield North, claimed the party under Jeremy Corbyn had become “infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism”.

In her resignation letter, Ryan said: “I cannot remain a member of the Labour party while this requires me to suggest that I believe Jeremy Corbyn – a man who has presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred of Israel that now afflicts my former party – is fit to be prime minister of this country. He is not.”

Her resignation came not long after Mr Corbyn had sought to play down the significance of the mass resignations earlier in the day, saying that the MPs who left had been elected to carry out the Labour manifesto, and despite having being chosen to “carry out those policies” they had “decided to go somewhere else”.

Chuka Umunna hopes his new party will be created by end of year

Chuka Ummuna

Chuka Umunna, who resigned the Labour party along with six of his colleagues on Monday to form a new independent group of MPs, has said he hopes to form a new party by the end of the year.
Umunna also hinted that more MPs, including from the Conservative party, could soon be resigning in order to join them.

Ummuna and six other Labour MPs resigned from the party on Monday, citing antisemitism, bullying and intimidation. They will initially sit in parliament as an independent group.

“I would like to see us move as quickly as possible and certainly by the end of the year, but that’s my personal view,” Ummuna told ITV on Tuesday. “There needs to be an alternative, so that’s perfectly possible. But I don’t get to determine this.”

Will May use the Labour split to call a snap election?

The Guardian reports today that Labour MPs are worried that Theresa May will take advantage of the eight resignations from the party this week, and call an early election.

Despite the prime minister having previously stated the next general election will be in 2022, this has not previously tied her hands – she had also ruled out calling an early election in 2017, and likely wishes she had stayed true to her word.

The newspaper reports that Stewart Wood, a Labour peer and political academic at the University of Oxford, said he believed the defections had “significantly raised the chances of a snap election being called”.

However, Prof Rob Ford, an academic and Labour expert at the University of Manchester, said that the Tories would be wise to remember that the new independent group could also steal voted from their party: “If Tories are saying ‘ha ha’ to Labour about the Independent Group, then it doesn’t strike me that they’ve thought very deeply about the possible consequences,” he said.

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Daniel Cody

Daniel Cody is SEO Editor at the New Statesman, and the creator of No Majesty. He is the host of the podcast Britain on the Rocks.