Dead. The word that best describes Theresa May’s Brexit deal. She has walked the tightrope of Brexit for longer than many expected but this deal is one step too far. The impossible balance between fulfilling a political mandate, without committing economic suicide, was always going to be tricky and the Tories are in disarray but we should keep the champagne on ice if May falls.
Her replacement will be a more dangerous animal, both politically and economically. A Brexiteer would win a leadership challenge, whether this would be Raab or Javid or anyone else it will a Brexiteer. The Conservative membership choose between the last 2 candidates and the Conservative members are ardent Brexit supporters. Theresa May found that out on LBC when one of her own councillors rang up to tell her to resign.
This hypothetical Brexiteer would head straight to the EU asking for a Canada deal. Nothing more. This is a deal that is doubly dangerous mainly as it can be sold as economically safe and therefore a legitimate Brexit path. The great feature of May’s deal is Parliament won’t vote for it! A Tory whip behind a Canada Deal might just do that, however it would be an economic disaster. The deal might eliminate tariffs, but it is non-tariffs barriers that would hamper our trade with the EU. It would be very expensive, the annual price coming to £57bn. No one wants a new harder than hard Brexit delivered by a resurgent Tory party.
The left should want May to survive.
Luckily she will. It has now been over 3 days since Dominic Raab resigned from Theresa May’s cabinet and the Brexit rebels haven’t rounded up 48 votes to trigger a vote of no confidence, at the second time of asking. The Brexiteers need 3x more votes (159) just to trigger a leadership contest, May is safe from her own party.
The rejection of this deal though throws up huge constitutional issues. With time running out it might not be possible to send May back for another deal. Even if we can, what Brexit deal passes Parliament?
Credit: Electoral Maps UK
I personally think Labour’s Brexit plan, that involves negotiating a customs union with the EU, does if May decides to back it, but she would have to be pushed hard into a corner for that to occur.
Starmer and Corbyn have played a masterclass in politics over Brexit. They found the narrow path to a softer Brexit than the government without needing the EEA. That strategy has brought us here and when May’s deal does not pass Parliament they must act quickly to trigger a general election, their position on Brexit in their manifesto might decide the election but that is a question for then, and failing that a Referendum on Brexit. Those counselling against the latter should remember Labour campaigned for Remain, the party believes its the better option, and certainly is a better option than the Tory Brexit on offer.
For any of thee scenarios to occur, May must survive. If a new Tory leader emerges we will be plunged into a Hard Brexit and 4 more years of Tory rule.