It is hard not to wonder whether Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May’s overture to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is intended to share the blame rather than the Brexit glory that wasn’t. If her statement on Tuesday evening from the lectern of 10 Downing Street is any indication, she intends to ask for a short extension to Article 50 and seek a compromise withdrawal plan with the Labour party, a remarkable essay towards inter-party endeavour to reorient the constitutional narrative. As she faced the people who had voted for the referendum three summers ago, Mrs May distinctly came through as a somewhat chastened leader post the serial setbacks, indeed a head of government who has arguably reconciled herself to a halfway house. It is pretty obvious too that she has her back to the wall, and appears to have eventually accepted the longstanding argument that her opponents ought also to be taken on board. Given the roller-coaster Brexit narrative, her detractors have advanced a figurative allusion, wondering whether her mind is as open as the door to No. 10. Despite Mrs May’s boast of “national unity to deliver the national interest”, her offer is rooted in the partisan politics that plagues the Tories. There is no indication of any compromise that the Prime Minister is willing to make. The basis of the proposed negotiations is her Brexit withdrawal agreement, which has already been rejected thrice by the House of Commons. Having issued a whip to his party to vote against Mrs May’s deal, Mr Corbyn will now have to agree to back the same. The Prime Minister will thus be able to convey the impression that she alone cannot be blamed for the Brexit imbroglio, almost relentless.
Small wonder that Brexit remains an idea bereft of a convincing mode of expression. The concept is as yet embryonic, verily intangible. Much more time is required if it has to be refashioned in a generally agreeable manner. Less than agreeable is her suggestion on talks with Labour. The nub of the matter must be that Mrs May leads a party in which an influential minority group considers the idea as harmful in terms of their identity. Considering the overwhelming mess, she does need cross-party support.
If there is no prospect of agreeing to a form of Brexit and if there is no extension forthcoming, the United Kingdom will either have to revoke Article 50 or leave without a deal. Mrs May has already promised her MPs that she will resign once this process is complete. She has now reached out to the opposition. While this may be realpolitik in her own lights, there is no guarantee that the next resident of 10 Downing Street will readily concur with Theresa May’s deal with Labour, a case-study of an unavoidable anathema.