Just over two months before Reformation Day and Brexit, and the councils of Europe are in puzzled disarray.
Back in our Parliament, the beasts are restless. The hyenas are creeping forward awaiting the end of the recess. Labour and the Liberals see a chance for a vote of no confidence, but the polls suggest that any election following it would bring a thumping Conservative majority, if the Brexit Party keep away and do not split every pro-Brexit vote.
Then there are the unknown loose cannons, of which only a few are needed. Oliver Letwin is as Conservative as can be, but has done his damnedest to damage the Government’s negotiations: he has just announced he will not stand at the next election, but does then then open the way for him to resign the whip and vote against his party? Guto Bebb has also said he will not stand again, though he was on the point of being deselected in any case. Ken Clarke is not standing again, and at one point Dominic Grieve was not standing either; his position is uncertain. These are all men with ‘Tory’ written through them like seaside rock but seized with a destructive singlemindedness on one topic.
The malcontents should stop and think. What do they actually want, and what will their actions actually achieve?
Of the Conservative rebels, some explicitly want to stop Brexit entirely, hidden maybe under declarations about a try-again vote, but to cancel nevertheless (Bebb, Grieve etc). Some are content to carry through but want to ensure there is a Withdrawal Agreement in place beforehand (Hammond etc). Labour just want to humiliate the Conservatives, and there is a handful of Conservatives willing to help them to do so.
Cancelling Brexit is unrealistic, and impossible given the timetable and determination at the top, so those seeking that outcome must seek to minimise the loss of their ideology, which should (if logic were applied, which is far from assured) bring them into the Hammond camp. However the Hammond idea of leaving only with a deal is sabotaged by the Parliamentary games threatened.
Each plot has simply persuaded Brussels to sit tight and laugh, assuming that Britain will come crawling: this lessens the possibility of reaching a deal, and it hardens the attitude of those Spartans who want a no-deal outcome. This in turn may convince the Hammond wing that this is the desired outcome, against all evidence to the contrary.
The malcontented should consider that we are not where we were two years ago, nor does the ship of state have a timid, pliable hand at the wheel as it did them, nor is Number 10 staffed by those happy to undermine Brexit – and by all accounts the presence of Dominic Cummings has energised a new purpose to the Cabinet office team.
The calendar pages turn and it will soon be October. If there were a vote of no confidence and a new general election, it could only happen after Exit in any case, and so achieve nothing but a no-deal outcome and strengthen Boris’s hand in its result. As to overturning Brexit entirely, even the most dreamy Remainiacs must realise that is not achievable, and the Government will pull every string and more to ensure no further slippage: the best they can hope for is a close continuing relationship with the EU, and games will only endanger that.
Mr Grieve might ponder an irony: the main thing that has stopped a deal being signed and may stop a deal being signed, is Section 13 of the Withdrawal Act which he forced through. If he wishes to avoid the cliff-edge, he should try to repeal that section, if there were time.
What to do with to bring the renegades on board is a matter of delicacy. The idea of frying their brains with electricity as Alan Ashworth suggested yesterday (with tongue in cheek I hope) in Conservative Woman, sounds tempting. but out shall come some carefully orchestrated whipping, threats, promises, discussions in dark corners and frankly banging their heads against the wall until they are convinced that all they are doing is actually bringing about the reverse of what they want.
The sorry fact is that the awkwards and Boris want the same thing, namely a favourable or at least acceptable deal with the European Union, leading to an equal trade deal.
- Securing the exit endgame
- Fixing the Withdrawal Agreement
- The Withdrawal Agreement: a commentary
- Treason, stupidity, recklessness or hypocrisy?
- For the Record by David Cameron
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Brexit: How the Nobodies Beat the Somebodies by Sebastian J. Handley
- Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tom Connelly
- Beyond Brexit by Vernon Bogdanor
- From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland by Donnacha O Beachain
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- By Boris Johnson: