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Wednesday 22 May 2019

After weeks and weeks of speculative stories saturating the news feed, it feels peculiar to witness a bona fide event, but such is the utter bankruptcy of Theresa May’s final throw of the dice, it barely registers on the Richter scale.

The prime minister’s “new deal”, unveiled yesterday, consists of the old deal plus alignment with EU regulations, and Commons votes on temporary Custom Union membership and even more scandalously, a second referendum. It’s a disaster. Yesterday’s pitch was squarely focused on getting Labour MPs onboard, case in point:

“…That is why when two Labour MPs, Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell, put forward their proposals to give Parliament a bigger say in the next phase of the negotiations I listened to them.”

As expected the massive entreaty to the opposition has sparked an epic backlash from May’s own MPs.

“The Prime Minister’s latest proposals are worse than before and would leave us bound deeply into the EU. It is time to leave on WTO terms,” said Jacob Rees-Mogg.

“So if we pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at 2nd reading, we allow a Remain Parliament to insist upon a 2nd referendum and a Customs Union? This is *outrageous*,” tweeted Simon Clarke (see Westmonster for an excellent write up of who said what).

This is not a case of a minority of MPs with very loud voices. As of 9.45 this morning, 68 Tory MPs have pledged to vote down the deal, exactly double the number at the last meaningful vote on 29 March.

According to the Telegraph, the chief whip cut a solitary figure at yesterday’s heated cabinet meeting, saying as if to himself, “we’re not going to get it”. May is reported to have ignored him.

The signs are that Labour will not make up the numbers, the PM’s strategic aim. Jeremy Corbyn has not responded, formally or otherwise, adding extra significance to today’s PMQs, which will be followed by a debate on the new Brexit plan.

The second referendum vote in the Commons is set to coincide with the committee stage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, after its second reading. To secure the Commons vote Remainer MPs would first have to vote for May’s deal.

Getting the backing of the majority of Labour MPs who are desperate for a second referendum would be a dream come true for the prime minister, but she’s primarily focused on a group of twenty or so Labour backbenchers from leave constituencies who are inclined towards EU withdrawal.

“They [May’s team] just do not understand that the main consideration is whether the bill can actually win,” the source said. “Once that is gone, our MPs don’t even have to make a choice,” an insider of the group told Politico.

Given the venomous reaction to yesterday’s announcement and the lack of Labour support, it’s no surprise that rumours are surfacing of May eventually deciding not to table the WAB replete with nefarious promises to Labour. “It feels like checkmate now. They’re all too deep in the trenches to listen to anything she has to say. We really have nowhere else to go,” a Downing Street source tells the Sun.

A may resignation feels closer than ever. The 1922 Committee has flattered to deceive on too many occasions, but the Tories go into tomorrow’s election in fifth place, behind the Green Party on just 7%, a whole 30 points below the Brexit Party. The inevitable pummelling will fix minds, Nigel Evans’ is already made up.

“She has U-turned on absolutely everything. We cannot put up with this any longer. I will be asking my colleagues tomorrow to agree to a rule change so we can hold an immediate confidence vote if Theresa is not prepared to stand down now,” The Eurosceptic MP and 1922 executive member told the Sun.

All eyes are now drawn to tomorrow’s European elections. They will dictate May’s next move.