Theresa May had bowed again to pressure from Parliament and has pledged to release a White Paper to spell out her Brexit plan for Britain.
Even worse for the PM is the timing of this new U-turn. It came after the decision of the Supreme Court to not allow the PM to begin talks with the EU until MPs and peers give their backing.
The PM will need to get an act of Parliament to trigger Article 50 and will need to detail what Brexit really means before she even begins to negotiate with the EU.
So far, the PM only gave a broad outline of what she intends to do. And she thought that her speech last week would be enough to get our MPs to back her.
But leading Conservative figures such Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke have applied pressure on the Prime Minister to provide a clear Brexit plan. Not just a speech. On its own, this clearly suggests that the Tories aren’t all happy with May’s shambolic Brexit proposals and refuse to support her.
Therefore, the PM was facing a potential division from Conservative rebel’s and pressure from Labour to spell out her plan before the parliamentary vote to trigger Article 50.
That’s why May decided to announce her U-turn at the beginning of Prime Minister’s Questions. And in reply to Tory MP Chris Philip she said:
I recognise that there is an appetite in this house to see that plan set out in a White Paper… I can confirm to the house that our plan will be set out in a White Paper published in this house.
She then added:
I have been clear, as have senior ministers, that we will ensure that parliament has every opportunity to provide that scrutiny on this issue as we go through this process.
Of course the Labour Party was quick to describe this as a major and new U-turn from May.
The Shadow Brexit Minister Keir Strarmer quite rightly pointed out:
This U-turn comes just 24 hours after David Davis seemed to rule out a white paper, and failed to answer repeated questions from MPs on all sides of the House. The Prime Minister now needs to confirm that this white paper will be published in time to inform the Article 50 process, and that it will clear up the inconsistencies, gaps and risks outlined in her speech.
Let’s be honest. Her decision to announce a White Paper on Brexit did not come as a surprise. It was evident that the PM would concede defeat on this especially after her bruising at the Supreme Court.
Although many would have thought that the PM would have tried to keep the opposition in the dark a bit longer. But it was a move she couldn’t afford, as the pressure from her own MPs to spell out her strategy was mounting. Some Conservative MPs are not happy with her hard Brexit dream of a so-called global Britain and wanted to have a control on what the PM will do once she starts negotiating our way out of the EU.
And that’s precisely what Jeremy Corbyn should use against May. The Conservatives aren’t all behind the PM. These are the first cracks in May’s team.
Even if the PM said that she will set out a White Paper, her government still refused to say when it would publish the document. This alone should provoke calls from Corbyn for MPs to have access to the information before they are asked to vote on triggering Article 50.
Corbyn must exploit all the PM’s weaknesses if he is serious about stopping May’s bargain basement Brexit deal.
Of course, Labour is right to say that they will vote to trigger Article 50, but Labour’s support doesn’t mean a surrender to May’s hard Brexit.
As Labour and the Tory rebels are likely to push for the White Paper to be published before parliament votes on the legislation, Corbyn has now a golden opportunity to impose his views and defeat the PM.