The Slatest

What’s More Unpopular: No-Deal Brexit or Prime Minister Corbyn?

Boris Johnson encircled by a blinking EU symbol, with Jeremy Corbyn looking on.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Animation by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photos by Jon Super/AFP/Getty Images, Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.

There was a lot less talk about the U.K. and the EU reaching a new withdrawal agreement this week. The two sides can’t even agree on conditions for starting new negotiations. The consensus view seems to be that the U.K. is headed for a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, unless Parliament can stop it.

This week in Labour: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveiled his plan this week to stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson from pulling Britain out of the EU without an agreement on the future relationship between the two. When Parliament returns from recess in September, Corbyn will call a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s government. There’s reason to think this might succeed: Johnson’s coalition has only a one-seat majority, and a significant number of Conservative MPs oppose a no-deal Brexit. If it does, Corbyn will ask Parliament’s smaller parties and the rebel Conservatives to support him as prime minister, for a “strictly time-limited” government which would ask the EU for a Brexit extension past the current Oct. 31 deadline, and then call a new general election. In that election, Labour would campaign on a pledge to hold a new referendum on Brexit, with an option for remaining in the EU. (This represents a bit of a shift: Labour was previously vague on whether it supports a new referendum.)

The main hitch in the plan is Corbyn himself. Because of his leftist views, allegations of anti-Semitism in the party under his leadership, and his vague stance on Brexit, the Labour leader is a controversial figure whom many moderate Remainers will be reluctant to have as prime minister. The Scottish National Party—the third-largest in Parliament—signaled it was on board with the Corbyn plan. The Greens and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru are somewhat on board but would prefer to have a referendum before a general election. But Jo Swinson, newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats—the fourth-largest party—opposed the plan, calling Corbyn “divisive” and saying he couldn’t command Parliament’s support. She proposed two other moderate MPs as consensus figures to lead a caretaker government.

This week in America: U.S. national security adviser John Bolton paid a visit to London this week, where he met with Johnson, reiterated the Trump administration’s support for Brexit, and promised that Britain would be “front of the trade queue” for a new deal with the United States once it leaves Europe. There have been worries in Britain that a trade deal with the U.S.
could lead to U.S. firms bidding for contracts within the National Health Service and concessions on food safety. (“Chlorinated” has been a big point of concern.) Bolton promised that agreements could be reached sector by sector rather than all at once, which could ease a few concerns. But back in Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that no U.S.-U.K. trade deal would get through Congress if a no-deal Brexit led to the imposition of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—which many fear would endanger the region’s peace process.

This week in the economy: The British economy shrank by 0.2 percent between April and June—the first contraction in a quarter since 2012—amid growing global fears of a new recession. Sajid Javid, chancellor of the exchequer, dismissed fears of a recession saying “the fundamentals of the British economy are strong,” but opposition leaders blamed the uncertainty caused by Brexit and Conservative leadership. The Bank of England expects the British economy to grow 1.3 percent this year, revised down from a previous projection of 1.5 percent.

Days until next deadline: 77 days