So far from being immediately ousted, Theresa May will only permit her divided and supine cabinet to get their first sight of her draft plan to reassert control of Brexit one hour before the cabinet meeting at 10 o’clock this morning. The secrecy is designed to prevent the sort of leaks which have kept predicting her imminent demise and recording their own disarray. The plan reports say contains her own series of indicative votes to rival those of the Cooper/Boles / Letwin motion in favour of the Common Market 2.0 or Norway plus, which may lead the field in the Commons as a whole. The rival Leave and Remain coup plotters seem to have cancelled each other out, leaving Mrs May once again in charge of the field.
But it may be a Pyrrhic victory. The bigger battle is with the ERG and friends. The sting in the tail is in the Sun’s front page editorial and lead…
“AN agreement between Theresa May and senior Brexiteers to pass her EU deal was last night on “a knife-edge” – after it was demanded she set a date to quit.”
One senior Tory at the three hour long meeting told The Sun last night a deal was “on a knife-edge”, with another adding: “Things are very delicate”
Mrs May’s plan for indicative votes is her reply to the Brexiteers’ demand for her to set a time scale for quitting. It’s unlikely to mean a U turn in favour of soft Brexit; but at least a willingness to contemplate one very late in the day, as a means of forcing the hardliners to support her own deal. The lady is not done yet.
The “quit” demand is the hard core Brexiteers’ ploy to dominate the negotiations for the final settlement and put their candidate for PM in pole position for the future.
The day of encounters at Chequers with leading Brexiteers ended without agreement and was followed by a renewed call from Boris Johnson in his regular DT column to quit the EU as originally planned. If Johnson’s flat rejection of Mrs May’s move towards a more flexible approach is typical of the Brexiteers, her chances of winning are as poor as ever. On the other hand she seems determined to dig in and remain in office until the job is done. Or at least she was on Sunday night. Indeed Tom Newton Dunn the Sun’s political editor, reports she refused to discuss quitting when the Brexiteers brought it up.
Boris Johnson writes:
By jeopardising the governance of Northern Ireland – and threatening the Union – it keeps us effectively in the customs union and the single market. Not only are we prevented from doing proper free trade deals, but we must endure the utter humiliation of watching the EU commission negotiate access to UK markets – with no UK say on the deals.
It is that democratic disaster that puts MPs off the deal; Labour or Tory, Remainer or Leaver. There is only one plausible argument why we should now vote it through – and that is that every other option is now worse.
The Chancellor has also been actively canvassing a second referendum. There is talk of an election, or revoking Article 50, or some kind of cabinet coup. We are told that under the “indicative votes” to be held, the government of the country could be somehow handed to a triumvirate of Nick Boles, Yvette Cooper and Oliver Letwin.
They are all estimable people, but their Norway/EEA/customs union proposal would be catastrophic. We would not take back control of immigration policy; we would be rules-takers; there would be no free trade deals; and – here is the kicker – we would still have the Irish backstop.
It is hard to understand why the government cannot simply reject these proposals as contrary to the manifesto of both main parties and the referendum result. To any strong and resolute government, these suggestions would be paper tigers, turnip ghosts.
Robert Peston, always orginal, tweets..
Having now read @BorisJohnson in @Telegraph, it is clear to me he is preparing ground for mother of all u-turns – and that he is poised to support @theresa_may’s deal if she brings it back for third meaningful vote, so long as she commits to resign after the deal is ratified and removes Olly Robbins from the team that negotiates the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
The point is that the alternative he proposes, a no deal rupture on 12 April but the shock mitigated by a 33 month “implementation period”, is viewed in the Cabinet and every EU.capital as the grand-daddy of all unicorns, impossibilism on stilts.
And although @BorisJohnson has been banging on about his grand plan for yonks, he surely now knows it is dead. So if the PM serves him up her own head today or tomorrow, he will surely back her deal. He. couldn’t bank her departure, rev up his own campaign to succeed her, and then vote down her Brexit plan? Could he?
Read attached Johnsonian conclusions and tell me what you think. It is a very conditional offer to the PM, which still makes clear he isn’t persuaded UK would ever exit the backstop. He couldn’t bank her departure, rev up his own campaign to succeed her, and then vote down her Brexit plan? Could he?
The clues in what Boris writes are here..
There is only one plausible argument why we should now vote it through – and that is that every other option is now worse. … If she really wants her deal to go through parliament, the PM could still set out convincing proofs of how the next phase of the negotiations – when all the key questions are to be settled – will be different from the first.
How will we be able to take back control of our laws? Will we really do free trade deals? And can we really go on with a negotiating team that has so resoundingly failed? If she cannot give that evidence of change – she should drop the deal, and go back to Brussels, and simply set out the terms that so many on both sides – remainers and leavers – now believe are sensible.
How is she supposed to demonstrate that.. and especially as they want her to quit as soon as she’s done it?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London