Nick Timothy claims in today’s Daily Telegraph that George Soros plans to bring down the Government. The facts of the case seem to bear him out. Soros is to help fund Best for Britain, which aims to stop Brexit entirely. It aims to persuade MPs to vote down any deal that Theresa May reaches with the EU. A strategy paper seen by guests at a dinner this week at Soros’s London house said that if the Commons rejects a deal then a second referendum or a general election will follow.
It is most unlikely, in these circumstances, that a May-led Government would seek to hold such a vote. It is opposed to one. There would be no consensus in the Conservative Party for holding it, and there might not be one in Parliament as a whole either. No, an election would surely be the most practicable outcome. Timothy’s reading of Soros’s plan looks right.
There is an irony in the man who helped to force Britain out of the ERM, thereby preparing the ground for cross-party resistance to joining the Euro, now seeking to keep the country in the EU – and attempting to overturn the verdict of the largest number of British voters ever to have thrown their weight behind a cause. As his critics delight in pointing out, Soros has never held public office. Nor has the preposterously grand and resolutely unelected Mark Malloch-Brown, who made a presentation for Best for Britain about which Timothy writes. Nor has Gina Millar who, perhaps taking a break from her various attempts to frustrate Brexit in the courts, is also on board. This is not a good look for a campaign that will seek to persuade the public that it is on their side.
However, a point occurs which Soros, for all his wizardry in the markets, may not have thought of. There will be no fully-fledged trade and security deal for the Commons to vote against before Brexit takes place on March 29 next year. Instead, there will either be nothing at all, in which case MPs will have nothing to oppose, or there will be “heads of agreement” – a declaration of intent. It follows that there will be no implementation period, since there will be no deal to implement post-Brexit. There will be what is properly known as transition. Negotiation on a final deal will roll on into it. Are MPs more or less likely to vote against a statement of intent than a detailed, final agreement? The view of MPs that this site has spoken to, Remainer and Leaver alike, is less.
They may be wrong. But even were a general election to take place it is far from certain that Brexit would be halted afterwards. This is because the easiest electoral course for Labour and especially the Conservatives to take would be to duck doing so. Instead, both might propose keeping a transition period, despite the rejection of Heads of Agreement, while “negotiating the right deal for Britain”.
Of course, it could be that this last stand by the Ascendancy will win out, after all. Maybe its campaign will bring down the Government – though May would be entitled to make a vote on any Heads of Agreement one of confidence. Timothy asks some aggressive and justifiable questions about whether some Conservative MPs – he names Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry – will co-operate with a campaign that is prepared to bring down the Government they were elected to support.
But, as we have seen, the most probable outcome of any such election is the return of a Government that would seek to stay in the EU de facto though not de jure for an uncertain length of time. Leavers would rage, for obvious reasons. But Remainers would be unhappy too. They would not have prevented Brexit. Britain would have no MEPs, no seat in the Council of Ministers, no presence in the Commission. It might, however, have a Corbyn-led Government. Is this what any Tory MP really wants?