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Friday 22 February 2019

A little-known faction of fake Leaver and Remainer Tory MPs known as the Brexit Delivery Group has issued an ultimatum to Theresa May: give us a free vote ruling out a no deal or we’ll vote for Yvette Cooper and Oliver Letwin’s amendment to the same effect.

“Numerous members of our group have alerted us to their intention (should rejection of the deal look likely) to get behind amendments that are planned in the name of Oliver Letwin and others and which will have the twin effect of taking no deal off the table and delaying Brexit, “write the group’s leaders Simon Hart and Andrew Percy in their letter, urging the prime minister to help take No Deal off the table in order to restore the, “reputation for competence of both the party and the Government.”

More than 30 MPs will vote with Cooper and Letwin if Mrs May does not concede, Percy told the BBC – the Telegraph says it could be as much as 100. Sheer madness. Without the threat of a no deal, Britain has next to no negotiating leverage.

It gets worse, if more predictable. According to the Guardian, as many as 25 members of the government will also side with the Brexit Delivery Group in backing the Cooper-Letwin amendment. They comprise of the four Cabinet ministers we’ve been hearing about all week, Amber Rudd, Greg Clark, David Mundell and David Gauke, plus around a dozen junior ministers and several others on the government payroll. They will not resign however, the prime minister would have to sack them. Anti-Brexit Tories now claim there is enough support behind the bipartisan amendment for it to pass.

Also backing the amendment will be The Independent Group, which is reportedly poised to nominate Chuka Umunna as its leader. The group added its twelfth member a few moments ago in the form of Ian Austin and has told the Huffington Post they will back May’s deal on the condition it gets put to a second referendum, the only policy that unites them.

Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson have made the same demand via an amendment of their own. Jeremy Corbyn is being put under “intense pressure” to back it by senior members of the Shadow Cabinet, including (surprise surprise) Sir Keir Starmer and Diane Abbott, say the Guardian. The Times reports Corbyn faces a “mass revolt” if he does not back a referendum on May’s deal – which would not list No Deal as an option, even though that’s what Brexit really is – otherwise, “dozens” of MPs will defect to the Independent Group.

“If Jeremy ends up not supporting it, it will have a dramatic effect and people will go,” said one MP.

And if you’re wondering what’s happening in Brussels after two weeks of talks the answer is: nothing. The attorney general, who has been in the EU capital all week trying to invent new legal mechanisms to restrain the backstop was supposed to give a speech this week outlining his progress, that’s not going to happen, while the same Times articles claims that, according to senior EU sources, no concessions will be made until next week’s now pivotal amendment has passed.

Whether Cooper’s amendment passes, we shall have to wait and see. Her first attempt failed. Going into the second, her chances of success look depressingly better.