ON the morning of the most important vote of Theresa May’s premiership, the Cabinet will convene.
Multiple members of it tell me that they expect a massive row. But the remarkable thing about this row is that it will be based on the assumption that Theresa May has already lost this vote — and lost big.
No one is pretending that May is going to win on Tuesday night. From No 10 to the Cabinet, everyone admits that it is lost. The optimists think the right amendments can keep the margin of defeat down to double digits, but that is as far as their expectations go.
The row will be about what to do once the Government has lost. One faction in the Cabinet believes that, in the words of one secretary of state, “the only realistic route to go down is to force it into the EU’s hands”.
This would involve devising a motion that made clear under what conditions Parliament would back the deal. Then saying to the EU: If you want to avoid No Deal, this is what we need to address.
One Cabinet minister who supports this approach says: “They don’t have the agility or the time to construct that for Tuesday. But they should devise it for ten days’ time and bung it over to Europe.”
But another group of Cabinet ministers thinks May can only pass a deal with “significant Labour support” and so she should invite Jeremy Corbyn in for talks after defeat on Tuesday.
One champion of this approach tells me: “If she does it well, she can make him take some responsibility.” This secretary of state concedes, though, that they don’t know whether May will do this or not, saying: “She is like a train on one track. She doesn’t know how to move.” So, what will Mrs May do?
Well, one of the few, who can claim to know her mind, tells me: “If the votes won’t come from the Tories, they have to come from Labour. What are the conditions for that going to be?”
In other words, vote down this deal and Brexit only gets softer. No 10 is also deeply pessimistic about getting much more out of the EU than it is already doing. So, May is highly unlikely to go down the route of asking Parliament to show the EU what kind of deal it would agree to.
At Cabinet this week, May tolerated some discussion of what would happen next. “No customs union, no second referendum. That’s the core for her,” reports one of those present. But will May hold the line on a customs union when that is Labour’s biggest single demand?
May’s deal is flawed. How could it not be, given the failure to prepare properly for No Deal, which has so weakened the UK’s negotiating position, and the loss of the Tory majority in Parliament which has hobbled Mrs May?
But the reality is that if this deal doesn’t pass, Brexit will only be weakened. The Government doesn’t want No Deal and doesn’t think it could get it through this Parliament even if it did.That means it will soften the deal to try to get Commons support for it.
The danger for Brexiteers is that voting against this deal could make it worse, not better.
Rebels could unleash Corbyn
EVERY Tory MP needs to remember that a Jeremy Corbyn government would do huge damage to the United Kingdom.
Privately, a growing number of Tory MPs who are passionately opposed to No Deal are flirting with the idea of bringing down the Government to stop it, if necessary. This would make a Corbyn premiership almost inevitable.
Now, No Deal would be disruptive and, given how late in the day the Government has left serious contingency planning, that disruption would be damaging to the UK and its reputation.
But this pales into insignificance compared to what a Corbyn government would mean. Labour’s plan to make companies with more than 250 employees hand over ten per cent of their shares to their workers would do huge damage to the UK’s reputation for respecting property rights.
It would contribute to massive capital flight from the UK and inflict lasting damage on the UK as a place in which to do business and invest.
But the economic damage that a Corbyn government would do wouldn’t be the half of it. Would our closest allies, led by the United States, really carry on sharing the most sensitive intelligence with us with Corbyn in charge?
I doubt it. Once unwound, the level of security co-operation between Britain and the other members of the Five Eyes security group would be impossible to put back together.
Risking Corbyn becoming PM because you are worried about No Deal is like amputating your leg to prevent your toes getting frostbite.
The EU’s problems have not gone away
BREXIT is so dominating the news that we can miss what is actually happening in Europe.
So, let’s consider the events of the past week. The governing parties in Italy have sent messages of solidarity to the Yellow Vests in France, a group who want to remove the French President from office.
Italy itself may well already be in recession and with industrial output falling sharply in Germany, even the powerhouse of the eurozone might be going that way.
This is a reminder that it would be deeply ignorant to blame every bit of bad economic news on Brexit and that the EU’s problems have not gone away.
Javid’s playing game of frisk with PM
AT a private meeting with Tory MPs on Wednesday night, Sajid Javid again made clear that he’s a very different Home Secretary from Theresa May.
Talking about the rise in violent crime, Javid said: “Sadly, we’ve seen a drop in stop-and-search”, before talking about how its use was now increasing again.
This was a clear attempt to distance himself from the Prime Minister. For who was more responsible than anyone else for the decline in use of stop-and-search, than the then Home Secretary Mrs May?
Javid’s comments will do little for the already badly strained relations between the Home Office and No 10.
Bercow’s ‘bias’ fires MP anger
ORDER is close to breaking down completely in the Commons chamber.
Tory MPs are so outraged by Speaker John Bercow’s behaviour that there is a real danger of them simply refusing to accept his authority.
On Tuesday’s big vote, there will be a series of amendments – some of which will be designed to help the Government, others not.
One influential member of the Government warns that “if he’s openly partisan in his amendment selections then I think there’ll be uproar and he could lose the House”.
Bercow could be spark that ignites the bucket of petrol that is UK politics
THE SUN SAYS
Remainer MPs have pretended to honour Brexit while plotting to destroy it
THE SUN SAYS
Odious John Bercow’s prejudices are wrecking Brexit and cost him MPs’ trust
Blame Labour’s John McDonnell for the vile abuse of Remainer Tory MP Anna Soubry
We’re heading for a No Deal Brexit and fatuous MPs are making it worse
One secretary of state warns that in these circumstances you could have “150 MPs stand up and completely disobey him”. If this happened, Bercow would either have to suspend the session or start chucking Tory MPs out of the chamber.
Is it really feasible to have the Speaker eject scores of MPs ahead of one of the most important parliamentary votes in decades?
The flagrancy with which Bercow has changed the rules leaves him vulnerable to Tory MPs deciding that they, too, are going to flout convention and refuse to sit down when he tells them to.