THE Brexit battlelines will become even clearer this week when both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will make setpiece speeches.
First out of the blocks will be the Labour leader who intends to advocate Britain remaining in a customs union with the EU after Brexit – a ploy to win over Remain-supporting Tory MPs like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry.
Mr Corbyn will be followed by the Prime Minister who intends to seek Cabinet approval for her latest negotiating position on Thursday before travelling to the North East to set out her plans. She said over the weekend that the country’s best days “really do lie ahead of us”.
However this won’t be the case if she is unable to win backing for her strategy as Labour and rebel Tories attempt to force a Commons vote on future customs arrangements as part of the Trade Bill currently passing through Parliament.
The fact that Dr Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, can’t specify a date for a vote – he says “we want to persuade our colleagues of the merit of the proposal before taking it forward” – is very discouraging.
After all, it’s unclear whether a Commons vote in favour a customs union that closely aligned existing arrangements would be sufficient to bring down Mrs May’s government or not.
Yet, while this is Mr Corbyn’s intention, he, too, needs to tread carefully. Not only must Labour honour its many supporters who backed Brexit, but the electorate may not forgive any leader who hinders a process that began on June 23, 2016, when the country voted to leave the EU.