Brexit Bulletin: Corbyn’s Problem

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Days to Brexit deadline: 86

(Bloomberg) --

Today in Brexit: The Brexit election campaign kicks off. If only we could figure out what Labour stands for.

What’s happening? We're off. Parliament has been dissolved, the 2019 election campaign has formally begun and the fate of Brexit is in the balance. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants his deal, the Liberal Democrats would stop the whole thing — but the public isn't clear on Labour’s Brexit policy, at least according to almost two-thirds of those surveyed by polling firm YouGov.

With his party divided, leader Jeremy Corbyn is backing a convoluted compromise: He plans to renegotiate a deal with the European Union and then put it to another referendum, with Remain as the other choice. It isn’t clear just what the party would do if the public voted Leave again.

Brexit Bulletin: Corbyn’s Problem

Hence his effort on Tuesday to frame Brexit as a plot by hard-right Conservatives to revive the policies of Margaret Thatcher and leave the National Health Service at the mercy of President Donald Trump in any trade deal. It’s a way to turn the conversation away from Brexit and toward an area where his party traditionally polls strongly. It could also help him to hold onto the support of traditional Labour voters in Leave-tilting constituencies.

The problem, for Corbyn, is that this position makes it harder for his party to enter any coalition with the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats. Their leader, Jo Swinson, explicitly ruled that out on Tuesday, saying she couldn't trust her counterpart on Brexit. But the Scottish National Party — firmly opposed to leaving the EU — hinted that it could support a Corbyn premiership. It would be another sign of how Brexit is upending old political certainties if it manages to unite Labour with its biggest political foe north of the border.

Today’s Must-Reads

  • British businesses are taking Johnson’s election pitch to “Get Brexit Done” with a pinch of salt: They believe that confusion is set to carry on through 2020, or longer, according to Bloomberg’s Joe Mayes.
  • London, which voted to remain, will be a key election battleground. The Tories are expected to lose ground there, although Labour’s lead has halved since the last election, according to YouGov. Joshua Neicho at The Article explains why.
  • Brexit means the role of Parliament speaker remains crucial in British politics, writes Bloomberg Opinion’s Therese Raphael. It will be better for everyone if Lindsay Hoyle avoids any whiff of partiality.

Brexit in Brief

Deal Bonanza | Brexit may have sown chaos in U.K. politics, but at least one private equity firm is enthusiastic about the potential it creates for deals. Dan Zilberman, head of Europe at Warburg Pincus, said he sees Brexit as a “huge opportunity” — as long as the U.K. leaves with a deal.

Services Stagnate | The U.K.’s dominant services sector flatlined in October, the only part of the economy not to contract. Overall sentiment remains historically weak.

Brexit Bulletin: Corbyn’s Problem

Nasty Party | The Conservatives’ election campaign suffered an early setback after Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the government’s most senior ministers, was forced to apologize for his comments about a 2017 London tower block fire.

Kings Depart | Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond, both former Conservative chancellors of the exchequer, are stepping down from Parliament. Their departures show how much the Tories have shifted under Boris Johnson, writes Bloomberg’s Robert Hutton.

Rat Hair | Labour has repeatedly attacked Johnson's trade deal, saying it will expose Britain to U.S. foodstuffs that are subject to laxer safety standards. Making the rounds Tuesday was a piece by Richard North saying that those who make such claims are simply misinterpreting the U.S. rules.

Want to keep up with Brexit?

You can follow us @Brexit on Twitter, and listen to Bloomberg Westminster every weekday.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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