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Thursday 6 December 2018 

The Democratic Unionist Party have confirmed their strong stance on Theresa May’s deal. The DUP have told Brexiteer Tories that if the withdrawal deal is rejected they will not “bring down the government”. Which means if it were to pass, Theresa May would no longer have a majority in the Commons, and another general election would become increasingly likely. Nigel Dodds, when questioned whether he would support a vote of no confidence, argued: “that’s the risk that the Prime Minister is running.” The backstop issue is of course the major issue in the UK as a whole, but for Unionists in Northern Ireland, the idea of their nation being treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom is unthinkable.

However, given the trademark stubborn attitude she likes to spin, it is likely May will plough on, go to Brussels after losing the vote the first time around and come back with some minor and useless concessions in the hope of moving Eurosceptic MPs to her side and keep her faint hopes of the withdrawal deal passing alive. Much, in the same way, David Cameron went to Brussels before the 2016 referendum, and came back with such an obviously poor “new” deal from the European Union that only served to damage the Remain campaign, underlining, as it did, that the EU is not a reasonable organisation to negotiate with.

Rumours still circulate that May could resign after the vote on Tuesday or on Wednesday if the manner of her defeat in the Commons is humiliatingly large. However, as alluded to above, she has shown a genuine stubbornness and refusal to give up whilst selling her weak withdrawal deal.

There is talk of the vote being postponed if they’re facing a loss of more than 70 seats – which they most certainly are. The Telegraph have revealed a damaging prediction that they expect the government to lose 216 to 423. This would be a crushing defeat that May could almost certainly not recover from. However, a Whitehall source has told Politico that in order for the government to push the vote back, there would have to be…yes, another vote. And besides, how would more improve Downing Street’s position. May and her spokespersons have been saturating the airwaves for weeks trying (and failing) to sell the deal, more time would only expose further the weaknesses of the prime minister’s arrangement with Brussels.

Lingering in the background, and of great interest to both Brexiteers and Remainers, is the possibility that article 50 could be extended. If the UK requested an extension of this process, the Article 50 deadline could be delayed for a specified period of time. However, the other EU27 member states would have to agree to this extension, and this is by no means guaranteed.

The Telegraph have however reported that Brussels would be willing to discuss an extension as a serious possibility in order to avoid a no-deal outcome. This has proved Britain has far more leverage in the negotiations than many admit, with Brussels effectively admitting a clean Brexit would be damaging to the Continent by showing a willingness to extend article 50. The proposal has gained support from Labour MPs as well as some EU-leaning Conservatives. However, true Eurosceptic Tories will likely view this as yet another attempt to frustrate the Brexit process, and this as a move to stop a true Brexit from happening.