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Wednesday 28 November 2018

Not until 11 December, when the House of Commons sits for the meaningful vote, will we know definitively whether Theresa May’s terrible deal has the backing of a majority of MPs. In the meantime, we can be 99.99% sure it will fail. Today’s Sun claims the prime minister will suffer a 200-vote defeat with only 210 out of 315 Tories getting behind the withdrawal agreement, along with ten Labour defectors and one Lib Dem. The rest of the House’s 418 MPs will vote it down.

There is “zero chance” of the agreement passing, said one Cabinet minister, with another estimating seconding the estimation of a 200 margin on the basis there will be a “bandwagon effect”.

“Theresa is still being told she can win this by the people around her in No 10,” said a third Cabinet minister.

“It’s terrible advice and she deserves better, because they are going to bring her down.”

The bandwagon effect is only the tip of the iceberg of course. A bad deal is a bad deal, you can only do so much to dress up mutton as lamb.

Pro-Remain Philip Hammond appeared on the Today programme this morning to defend his boss’s negotiated semi-settlement – let us not forget, we still don’t know what the final arrangement will look like – on the grounds that it will avert economic Armageddon.

Those fine folk at Number 10 who’ve handed out “terrible advice” have also assembled a PR grid with one topic for each day in the lead up to December 11th (see below). Today is economic forecast day – hence Hammond’s Today appearance. The full report will be released later today. The Telegraph has received a sneak preview and has revealed the government’s propagandists want us to believe the UK economy will be 1-2% smaller in fifteen years’ time than it would inside the EU, while a no deal Brexit would lead to a 7.6% hit, amounting to £150bn. Sound familiar? Westmonster make an insightful comparison with David Cameron’s project fear.

Downing Street’s PR schedule
November 28: Economy
November 29: Security
November 30: International trade
December 1: Digital
December 2: The Brexit deal
December 3: Money
December 4: Immigration
December 5: Transport
December 6: Industrial strategy
December 7: Brexit for the whole U.K.
December 8: Consumers
December 9: [Blank]
December 10: Agriculture and fish

The Telegraph’s top story, however, is Downing Street’s cover up of legal advice on the deal. A running sideshow in the lead up to the deal being agreed was Geoffrey Cox’s positioning as a defiant buffer against a bad deal. With him being one of the best paid barristers in the country and attorney general and all, Cox was supposed to summon some sort of legal wizardry to thwart a bad deal. With the deal now signed-off and revealed to be an utter travesty, the noise around Cox has been turned down from eleven to zero.

Unsurprisingly, Brexiteer MPs want to see what the government’s legal experts really think. In response, Downing Street has said a “position statement” will be published on the agreement’s legality rather than the full legal advice.

This is important, a layman’s interpretation of the text implies Britain will only be able to extricate itself from the backstop by giving up Northern Ireland or getting unanimous buy-in from the EU27 over a border solution in Ireland that Brussels will do everything to block. The public needs to know whether there is a legal loophole enabling Britain to break free from the treaty without transgressing international law.

The redacted legal advice comes on the back of Sajid Javid’s admission to a Commons committee yesterday that the government’s migration white paper would not be published until next month with no guarantees it will be released before the vote.

The program motion on said vote will be published today. Following a drawn-out debate on whether it could be amended that even a House of Commons Library paper couldn’t decide on, according to Bloomberg May has (again) conceded ground to the opposition and her own traitors. However, even if amendments are successful they will not be legally binding. The desperation of Remainer Tories and the opposition is undimmed. According to House’s clerk, Sir David Natzler, if an amendment – say, for a second referendum – is backed with sufficient force it would be politically unfeasible to ignore.

“If the house were to agree that there should be a referendum before X or after X, that would have no statutory effect. No referendum follows as a result. But if there is a majority of members of the House of Commons that voted for it, I think you would be very unwise to say that has no effect,” said Natzler. “It would have, I assume, a considerable political effect.”

While that may sound deeply disturbing, it is generally believed that around 20 Labour MPs would block an amendment for a second referendum. Even accounting for the Tory traitors, it’s inconceivable such an amendment would gather enough votes. Besides, while the People’s Vote Campaign make great play of the amount of support they’re gradually accruing – according to them that is – within the Labour leadership, Jeremy Corbyn is said to still be extremely wary of alienating the millions of Labour voters who backed Leave at the Referendum. He may yet change his mind, but not until May has lost the first vote, and even then he is not a popular enough leader to change the minds of those 20 MPs, most of whom teeter on massively pro-Leave constituencies.

But while there remains a huge amount to speculate over, the fundamentals remain unaltered. The government is trying to sell a bad deal with the bogus threat of economic collapse, sounds a lot like 2016.