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Wednesday 27 February 2019 

“The United Kingdom will only leave without a deal on the 29th of March if there is explicit consent in the House for that outcome,” Theresa May disgracefully told the Commons yesterday afternoon.

In the certain event that the House removes No Deal from the equation, negotiations with the EU will be delayed. A “short, limited extension,” assured Mrs May. Read more at Westmonster.

“If it’s being delayed, which is my suspicion, as a plot to stop Brexit altogether, then I think that would be the most grievous error that politicians could commit,” Jacob Rees-Mogg told Sky News.

“It would be overthrowing a referendum result, two General Elections – one to call for the referendum, one to endorse the referendum – and would undermine our democracy.”

In an instant, Britain’s negotiating position has slid backwards. With No Deal off the table, the EU has no reason to be concerned. Until today, it did. Public debt levels are far greater than on the eve of the financial crisis, the 2017 economic rebound is well and truly over, all the while vehement political opposition to European integration grows by the day, North, South, East and West.

Brussels will bide its time, offering even more defective versions of May’s dreadful withdrawal deal until voila, a Single Market plus Customs Union package is delivered to Westminster. This is the deal MPs are salivating over. Never mind that it will lead to continued free movement of people, or yet more wasteful EU budget payments, together with the usual burdens: no independent trade deals, job-killing regulations, ruinous agricultural and fisheries policies. All of this and more, without representation.

This is why the threat posed by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is so concerning. “If we’re going to remain in the EU in name only, why not have another referendum avoid Brexit and win back representation,” the argument will go.

In abiding with a second referendum policy, directly contradicting their manifesto pledge, pandora’s box has been opened. As far as Westminster is concerned, it’s now ok to openly deceive voters. May has already opened it of course. Two years ago, she promised a future trade arrangement along the lines of Canada’s, somehow that transformed into remaining in the Customs Union (via the backstop) with a £39bn price tag attached.

As May’s deal gets worse and worse, weak Tory backbenchers – last week, 100 threatened to back Yvette Cooper’s delaying amendment – will undoubtedly fold in with the Labour Remain crowd and get their immoral referendum via amendment or the same old trick of pressuring May into adopting it herself.

According to today’s Commons order paper, the Cooper amendment is still there. Speaking to Newsnight, Nick Boles – architect of the blocking imitative – said his faction are retaining to acquire an “absolute assurance” the Prime Minister will keep her word.

May’s deal, or a new near identical version of it could still pass on March 12, neutralizing the threats outlined above – it is a threat in itself of course. That seems unlikely, given the historic margin of defeat when it was put to the Commons last month. Brexiteer MPs have said they would consider voting for the next iteration if the backstop were removed, judging by the lack of progress in Brussels over the past three weeks, that’s not going to happen.

However, in view of the very real threat of Brexit not happening at all, members of the European Research Group are faced with a dilemma. If they vote down May’s abysmal deal a second time, they would be sounding the death knell for independence. If they vote in favour, they would be responsible for Britain’s permanent confinement to the Customs Union, with no means of escape.

No surprise then that Rees-Mogg has softened his language. “As long as that backstop is there, I will not vote for this deal,” the ERG leader told the FT before qualifying his position. The backstop could be held in check by a time limit or unilateral withdrawal mechanism.

“I would be quite happy with an appendix. The backstop is in itself an appendix. I think you can add an appendix without reopening the text. You’d be adding something on at the end, but it’s still part of the text.”

As things stand, Brussels is showing no appetite for a change to the legal text, not even the appendices. May’s capitulation has ceded all control. Disaster.