Theresa May’s “no deal” Brexit threat has been killed off by the general election result, according to leading figures from across the political spectrum.
“Lame duck” May can no longer follow her hardline “no deal is better than a bad deal” approach after her failed attempt to achieve a Brexit mandate from the public resulted in a hung parliament.
The Prime Minister – whose position is hanging by a thread – will have to rethink her Brexit strategy in the face of pressure from Labour, her cabinet, divided Conservative backbenchers and ten Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs from Northern Island.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the general election result should pull the brakes on a “calamitous hard Brexit”.
He said, “Theresa May called this election to get her mandate to take this country sharply rightwards towards a low wage, no rights economy. The voters have said to Mrs May, no, you will not take us over your cliff.”
Without a parliamentary majority May can no longer dictate the terms of Brexit without cross-party consensus. In her desperation, she has turned to the hardline DUP in an attempt to strike an alliance that will grant her a slim parliamentary majority.
However, the alliance gives the lie to May’s “no deal” mantra as the DUP will not let that happen, said former chancellor George Osborne.
He said: “The DUP need a deal, because they are absolutely committed to not having a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
“Theresa May’s central claim – which is ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ –now becomes undeliverable, because the DUP will never allow no deal.”
Even with a DUP alliance May will have a slimmest of majorities, meaning that she will need virtually all of her backbench MPs to vote for whatever Brexit deal she puts to parliament.
As the Tory party is deeply divided between those who want a hard Brexit and those who want to maintain ties with Europe this will be difficult to achieve, according to Tory grandee Lord Heseltine.
He told the BBC: “Brexit is the cancer gnawing at the heart of the Conservative Party.”
Looming splits in the Tory party were evident on Friday when the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, who ensured May retained power by winning 13 seats in Scotland, called for an “open Brexit” that had cross-party support.
Chancellor Philip Hammond told the Prime Minister that she must deliver a Brexit that puts the economy first, according to reports, while Tory remain-supporter, Anna Soubry MP, said May will not be able to drive Britain over an economic cliff by crashing out of the EU single market.
Soubry said: “I don’t think she has the majority for leaving it. But actually what’s more important, I don’t think people out here in the real world actually want the hard Brexit that had been put forward.”
Tory devision could mean that May is left reliant Labour to push Brexit through.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Labour will demand radical changes to May’s dangerous Brexit plan, including the demise of the Great Repeal Bill. The bill would allow the government to scrap vital EU employment rights as they are being transferred into British law.
Speaking to the BBC, Corbyn said, “The Great Repeal Bill I suspect has probably now become history.
“I suspect we’ll have something different coming in a couple of weeks time.”
Corbyn said Labour will pressure May to rethink her obsession with immigration and instead concentrate on a “jobs-first” Brexit.
He said, “We want tariff-free access to the European market.
“We also want to maintain very important university and research collaboration in Europe.
“And there’s a whole host of European agencies – security, environment – in which we obviously wish to be part of.
“And I’ll tell you this: we will absolutely remain part of the European Convention on Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights.
“We are not walking away from those vital post-war agreements we made.”
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the “Tories are all over the place” on Brexit and called on May to work with Labour to formulate a cross party plan for leaving the EU.
Not only are the Tories losing their grasp on Brexit, their grasp on power is also vulnerable, with many anticipating a second general election in the coming months that could see Labour take over negotiations with the EU.
Jeremy Corbyn told the Andrew Marr show: “I think it’s quite possible there will be an election later this year – or early next year. We cannot go on with a period of great instability.
“We have a programme, we have support and we are ready to fight another campaign as soon as maybe.”