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Tuesday 26 February 2019

This is turning into the week where everything we’d been fearing over the past few months is finally (fatally) materializing. Last night, Jeremy Corbyn released a statement calling for a second referendum in the very likely event Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement is voted down a second time.

May will herself confirm to the cabinet today her intention to delay the March 29 cut off date in that event, taking No Deal off the table, the other concern that has been lurking on the horizon.

We will “put forward or support an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country,” promised Corbyn.

We strongly suggest you check out Leave.EU’s reaction over Twitter feed from last night. It would seem every senior member of the Labour party has pledged to respect the popular will. And lest we forget, Labour won all those votes at the 2017 general election on a manifesto commitment to withdrawing from the European Union. Westmonster have a write-up.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Labour’s Eurosceptic MP John Mann said Corbyn has now lost any shot he may have had at becoming prime minister. No wonder the Tories are enjoying an increasing advantage in the polls (see below) over Labour, although they too are sliding.

“There is absolutely no way I will vote for a second referendum. The manifesto was clear and I will not support this new Labour position. Nor will millions of Labour supporters,” tweeted Labour’s Kate Hoey – see more examples at Westmonster.

In his statement, the Labour leader also vowed to “do everything in our power” to prevent No Deal Brexit. No need. The Prime Minister is on the case.

This narrative is becoming all too familiar, Mrs May faces defeat in the Commons and co-opts the initiative herself, dragging government policy further over to the Remain side. It happened with triggering Article 50, the meaningful vote along with Dominic Grieve’s follow-up conditions and most recently, Graham Brady’s “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop – although the latter was an ERG move adulterated by Downing Street. Standard tactics for a weak government, but in this case, the leader is abysmally weak and directly responsible for her government’s paper-thin majority. It will only get worse.  “At the moment, nothing looks good,” a Downing Street official told Politico. Correct.

Faced with a mass rebellion by her own ministers and up to 100 Conservative MPs who have threatened to support the Cooper-Letwin amendment delaying Article 50 to avoid No Deal, May will pledge a no-to-No-Deal vote in the aftermath of her deal’s increasingly inevitable defeat at the second time of asking. Brussels hasn’t budged over the Irish backstop since negotiations resumed over three weeks ago as it waits to see the outcome of Cooper-Letwin. The EU can now afford to wait a lot longer, the deal that will be put to the Commons in March will be identical to the current one.

When it fails, the Government will provide a vote for two alternatives: No Deal or a delay to the negotiations. No prizes for guessing which will win out.

Taking No Deal off the table shifts the dynamics to an unrecognisable extent. For one, the “alternative arrangements” will be out the window. Brussels will know that whatever deal eventually gets pushed through the Commons it will entail more integration, not less – that’s what MPs want.

In the run-up to the mid-March vote, May will try to come up with meaningless legal reinterpretations of her original deal in a desperate effort to convince MPs the backstop will not confine Britain to permanent EU vassalage. Nevertheless, she will lose again and No Deal will then be taken off the table at the follow-up vote, Brexit delayed.

It will then only be a matter of time before an EEA+ deal, namely continued membership of the EU Single Market and the Customs Union – essentially EU membership without representation – gets put to the House, as that’s the deal MPs want and they are now in control.

That’s how bad this week’s turn of events will prove and more backward steps lie on that crimson horizon. With Labour now pushing for a second referendum, this concession-ready prime minister will be all too willing to move further to the Remain side, even if it contradicts the will of the 17.4 million. She must resign.