LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Tuesday 5 March 2019

Senior Tory Brexiteers have demanded Theresa May whip MPs into voting for No Deal after her deal inevitably fails at the second time of asking.

“It is crystal clear that the government has to keep no deal on the table and whip against an extension,” former party leader Iain Duncan-Smith told the Telegraph.

“That’s what she has said for two years. She has to oppose anyone trying to take it off the table and to reject an extension.

“That will make the EU sit up and understand that we are serious. It won’t give anything until these votes are done.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg added: “The government must whip for government policy and manifesto commitments. No deal is specifically referred to in the manifesto.” Two cabinet ministers agree. It is the “right approach”, said one.

Does May have the backbone to take their sage advice though? The answer is no. She is the one who handed Parliament a No Deal vote. Without the Commons’ “explicit consent” Article 50 will be extended, and Britain will not leave the EU on March 29, as currently scheduled. May caved in after more than 100 MPs threatened to back Yvette Cooper’s delaying amendment.

As ridiculous as it sounds, IDS and Rees-Mogg would have better chances of heading off an Article 50 extension if they lobbied the EU directly. In case anyone forgets – and the establishment frequently do – it is EU27 that decides whether talks can rollover or not. Parliament can only nudge them in that direction.

Following on from reports yesterday that Geoffrey Cox has failed in getting a meaningful restraint on the Irish backstop out of the EU, the attorney general took to Twitter last night to claim the contrary (see below).

We’re led to believe Cox is returning to Brussels to get a better compromise than the half-baked idea of a legally impotent arbitration panel, circulated in yesterday’s press.

“There definitely remains work to be done,” Downing Street told the Sun. According to the tabloid, Theresa May will make a trip to Brussels this Sunday to sign off on additional arrangements to her derided withdrawal deal. Number 10’s plan is to unveil the new terms on Monday, giving Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group little time to react before the new version of the deal is put to the Commons the next day.

“It would be in the national interest for Parliament to have 48 hours to scrutinise what Geoffrey Cox proposes before the debate starts on Tuesday,” argued Sir Bill Cash, one of eight lawyer MPs in a panel of Brexiteers assembled in order to scrutinise the legal tweaks made by Cox and May.

“We all need to make a proper analysis. To do otherwise would be seriously unwise.”

The other branch of Downing Street’s strategy is to woo Labour MPs representing Leave seats with promises to not deviate from left-wing friendly EU regulations. May’s point of contact on the other side, John Mann estimates that 35 opposition MPs would back her, provided she makes these concessions (yes, more).

Pouring cold water on that assertion is the Guardian, which reports the PM has been told that only three or four Labour MPs will back her deal. Mrs May was also warned by the Party’s HQ that MPs are wary of responding positively to her £1.6bn cash injection to impoverished communities as it will be interpreted as bribery.

The latter point seems exaggerated, but there’s no denying the optics look bad. It would have looked entirely different if May had come back from Brussels with a standard trade deal. That arrangement would have sold itself to patriots in the Labour heartlands.

But she didn’t, which is why the prime minister’s dealings with Labour are a mess, just like everything else.