The PM and the infamously powerful ERG are once again locking horns ahead of a crucial week in the House of Commons. The campaigning on the airwaves by senior members of the cabinet asking fellow colleagues to back the deal is telling. Warning members of the ERG that if they fail to do so they may get no Brexit at all, perhaps this is a risk the ERG are willing to take. Many commentators and insiders, familiar with the PM and how she operates predicted she would let the clock run, presenting us with this current situation. The premise
The timeline looks like this:
Tuesday – MP’s will for the second time, vote on Mrs May’s Deal.
If her deal is rejected, on Wednesday MP’s will vote on whether to leave the European Union with No Deal, if that too is rejected, the Commons will decide on whether to extend article 50. Turbulent times are ahead. The implications on the U.K. extending article 50 are that we would almost certainly have to elect new members of the European Parliament, come the elections in May.
How do we expect MP’s to vote?
Most people in Westminster expect that the Government’s Brexit agreement will be voted down. Though this hinges on whether the ERG or the DUP decide to back it, this looks unlikely. We also expect that the Independent Group will not side with the Government, though the fact that they offered the PM a confidence and supply agreement in return of the promise of allowing the British people a second referendum means that this is far from a clear-cut case.
The context of the chicken reference may now make more sense. If the ERG chooses not to side with their political leader, they know that the chances of Parliament backing a no-deal scenario are next to none. They also realise that Jeremy Corbyn is working hard at building consensus around a soft-Brexit deal. If this were the case and either we agreed a soft-Brexit or it was put back to the people, the ERG realise they could campaign on a ticket of no-deal. Though, they must calculate for the risk that the people will vote to remain.
For this reason, backing her deal, as bitter as it will likely taste may be their only opportunity to get the U.K. out of the European Union. Secondly, it will be done so by a Conservative PM. At which point many in the party will have the daggers ready, a leadership election is widely anticipated. The PM is testing their nerve, which is quite the most incredible tactic, a decision on the country’s most significant political and economic decision to take place in modern day Britain is being left to a game of Tory chicken.
If MP’s do vote the deal through, we must ask given that she has secured no concessions, just warm words and sound-bites, what has changed? How can a Government suffer the largest ever defeat in Parliament on a flagship policy and it be passed through just months later? Tory MP’s are playing party politics with your livelihood’s. The ideologues that exist in the ERG will likely vote the deal down and rightly so, and if they do normal order and pragmatism must surely be restored to our crumbling politics. Our future depends on it.
Seb Chromiak is Deputy Editor in Chief at TPN and studies at the University of Manchester