Theresa May is riding on a temporary high after winning the confidence vote against her government by a majority of 19 – by this government’s standards that’s a comfortable win. However, as is ever the case May’s problems are far from over as she now has to come up with an alternative Brexit plan to present to the Commons on Monday. On winning tonight’s vote, May said that to do this she would invite opposition leaders for talks this evening.
This is seen as a risky move in certain Conservative circles as if it looks as though May is working closely with Jeremy Corbyn it would test party loyalty. However, it may not even come to that as so far all the signs suggest Corbyn could refuse to meet with her. In response to the Prime Minister’s invitation, Corbyn said he would only meet with May if she ruled out a no-deal Brexit. Since then, there have been similar utterances from other opposition parties. May has made clear she wants to avoid no deal by reaching a cross party consensus. She is unlikely to go further as any such move would upset the Brexiteers in her party.
So, who comes out of this the worst? There’s a hope within in government that by inviting Corbyn – and other opposition MPs – into discussions the tables will be turned and Labour’s Brexit position will come under increased scrutiny. Given that May claims she is reaching out in the national interest in order to find some form of Brexit deal, it seems counter-productive for Corbyn to refuse unless May promises to stop no deal. By talking with the Prime Minister to find common ground between the two main parties, the Labour leader would in effect be making no deal less likely. The optics could backfire for Corbyn with some voters if it looks like he is playing political games at a time when the government is reaching out. While May’s premiership remains in trouble, tonight has served as a reminder that the current Brexit situation could have negative consequences for the Labour leader too.