Truly, they are all in it together. Leavers are prepared to vote against the Government. Yesterday, 14 Conservative Remainers actually did so. No more pious finger-wagging from any of them, please, about loyalty to the Government and standing with Theresa May. The truth is that Anna Soubry’s slogan joins her and Jacob Rees-Mogg at the waist: country before party. That they have different views of what that means doesn’t stop them sharing the sentiment.
When Steve Baker is running the ERG’s own whip, and Dominic Grieve is labelled the “Rebel Chief”, Tory order is breaking down. There is little one can add to Nicholas Soames’ plangent take above – save that a formal Tory split is now possible, if still unlikely. Rees-Mogg makes it plain in today’s Moggcast that many Brexiteers no longer trust the Prime Minister. Remainers seem to have opposed the Government yesterday because it gave way to the ERG. “Let all the poison that lurks in the mud, hatch out.”
The Prime Minister’s authority is draining away. Any Brexit deal that she puts to the Commons, based on her White Paper, is likely to have been modified by the EU. There is not a cat in hell’s chance of her having enough Conservative votes in the Commons to get such an agreement through. She would be reliant on opposition votes to do so – on the support of the Chris Leslies and Wes Streetings and Chuka Umunnas. That would take British politics into realignment country.
The more likely outcomes are either that there is no deal at all, or that the Commons votes it down. During the next few days, Conservative MPs and party members should be mulling what all this means. Are we most likely now to have No Deal? Or the postponement of Article 50, if the EU is prepared to agree it? Or a general election? The one certainty is that as matters stand we are due to leave the EU on March 29 next year, and a Withdrawal Act is in place to effect preparations.
Amidst these uncertainties, the Government now wants to end the current Parliamentary session early. On paper, there may be no good reason for the Commons to sit next week. In practice, all the move would do is suggest to bewildered voters that, at this supreme moment of national importance, MPs want to swan off early to the beaches – and that the Prime Minister is cutting and running.
Soames and Nick Boles are right to tweet that MPs should vote against the move. They and party members need to think deeply during the next few days about what should be done for the best, and ponder Theresa May’s future, short and medium-term. We will set out some possible ways forward tomorrow.