Jeremy Vine: Owen Jones clashes with caller
The political commentator and Labour Party activist claimed the UK was now “paying the price” as the prospect of a no deal Brexit increases. It comes as Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said that although time was in “very short supply”, Britain would stick at the discussions if an agreement was still possible.
But the comments appeared to be at odds with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who reportedly told MEPs the deadline for talks succeeding is Wednesday.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “Time is obviously in very short supply and we’re in the final stages, but we’re prepared to negotiate for as long as we have time available if we think an agreement is still possible.”
Mr Jones claimed there were only “two certainties” when it came to Brexit.
He said, “either Britain and the EU will sign off the hardest possible mutually agreed rupture, or the self-inflicted disaster of no deal will become a reality.”
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And in an attack on hardline Remainers, Mr Jones added: “None of this was inevitable.
“Don’t listen to me; heed the words of Peter Mandelson instead, who has declared that this is ‘the price the rest of us in the pro-EU camp will pay for trying, in the years following 2016, to reverse the referendum decision rather than achieve the least damaging form of Brexit’. Much too late.
“The price that will be paid over a generation or more due to a failure to unite around a compromise is steep indeed.”
It comes as Mr Barnier and his UK counterpart Lord Frost are negotiating in Brussels in a bid to break the stalemate – with just over three weeks until the end of the transition period.
The EU negotiator was said to have given a “downbeat” and “gloomy” assessment of progress in reaching a post-Brexit trade deal in an update to ambassadors from the 27 member states earlier on Monday.
Following these comments, Mr Jones said the UK should have “settled and fought” for the “closest possible relationship” with the EU.
The political commentator continued: “But anything other than stopping Brexit was written off as both disastrous for the country and morally untenable.
“And so here we are, on the verge of the hardest possible Brexit, with all the terrible consequences that entails.
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“A tragedy, and one that was avoidable.”
Mr Jones noted figures including Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and “hardcore” Tory Brexiteers “expended huge political energy in demonising any deal with the EU as a sell-out”.
He also took a swipe at former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for being “far too slow in defining what Brexit would look like” under a Labour government and “never making a proactive case for Labour’s suggested deal.”
The columnist said the lack of clarity from the party leadership at the time had “left voters baffled”.
He continued: “As collective discipline broke down, shadow cabinet ministers made completely contradictory arguments.”
If there is no deal by the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the month, then Britain will leave the single market and the customs union and begin trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms, with the imposition of tariffs and quotas.
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