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Wednesday 8 May 2019

Brexit Brunch opted not to cover yesterday’s mildly hyped story of Sir Graham Brady’s meeting with the prime minister. That turned out to be the right call, as the chair of the 1922 committee has emerged empty-handed.

Brady urged the prime minister to step down by late July before the House of Commons goes into recess. May is reported to have told Brady she intends on staying in post until the withdrawal debacle is dealt with, which won’t happen before the Autumn, perhaps later (if ever).

“My own view is that we have to stick to our guns and can’t go changing the stance all the time, but clearly there will be pressure,” one committee member told the Times. Not much cause for optimism there.

“If the PM refuses to budge on when she will go, committee members will be reconsidering their stance,” another tells the FT.

However, the Telegraph report May has been given until 4 pm, when the 1922 Committee convenes for a meeting to set, out her “roadmap” out of Number 10.

May is holding out until October, in the deluded belief she can strike a deal with Labour by then, but following the resumption of talks yesterday, that appears less and less likely. To recap on yesterday’s edition of this blog revealed Labour are putting a second referendum down as a red line.

However, speaking to the Times after yesterday’s session, Rebecca Long-Bailey, one of Labour’s lead negotiators sought to downplay talk of a “confirmatory ballot” – as the spinners at Labour HQ like to call it.

“Our policy position has not changed since the last Labour conference, where a public vote was one of many options on the table, certainly to avoid a Tory deal, a bad Tory Brexit or a no-deal situation. Certainly, we’ve been exploring the issue of a confirmatory vote in these discussions, but as yet nothing has been agreed,” said Long-Bailey, adding that, “The government needs to move on its red lines. We expect to make compromises, but without a government that is willing to compromise it’s difficult to see how any agreement can be reached.”

Given that the government has totally betrayed its originally stout position, it’s not clear what those red lines, other than a second referendum, could possibly be. Both sides are eye-to-eye on crippling Single Market regulations, they are in 90% agreement on a/the customs union, and Labour are known to be just as frightened of electoral consequences over open borders as the Tories. Indeed, it is the Conservatives who are more susceptible to arguments for continuing with free movement of people as that would keep financial services in the EU’s orbit, a known preference of the chancellor, Philip Hammond.

No doubt, there are other trifling issues Labour are making big play of, but an earthquake is on its way. Long-Bailey and her colleagues are probably intrigued to see which parts of the scenery it destroys before moving further.

That tectonic event is, of course, the European elections, which were confirmed yesterday by the government.

“We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted and have the treaty concluded so that those elections did not have to take place. But legally they do have to take place unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect, so those will now go ahead,” sighed de facto deputy PM, David Lidington, who is leading the government’s negotiations with Labour.

Lidington knows the electorate will punish them. The Times report the Conservatives will run a low-cost campaign, dipping only into taxpayer funds, not their own coffers.

At a confidential briefing to Tory MEP candidates yesterday, CCHQ openly admitted that this is going to be a damage limitation exercise.

The campaign will be “aimed at Conservative supporters who think the prime minister is doing her best to get this over the line and that the delay is not her fault,” said a source.

On that evidence, the Tories are basically campaigning for the Brexit Party, not that Farage and his team need help. They are showing real ambition, vision and unity – an all-conquering combination – offering a much-needed dose of optimism to an electorate sick to the teeth of Westminster lies and isolation.

At a press conference yesterday, party chairman Richard Tice unveiled plans to select 650 candidates for the next general election. “This isn’t just about Brexit”.

No, it never was.