Published:

407 comments

“Mr Speaker, the House has spoken and the Government will listen.”

And I am not resigning – though another Prime Minister in my position would.  The deal on which I gambled has just been rejected by the Commons by the biggest margin in modern times.  Conservative MPs voted against it in the biggest rebellion in modern times.  Some 63 per cent of Tory backbenchers went into the lobbies to oppose it.

However, the Fixed Terms Parliament Act offers me some protection.  Furthermore, a leadership challenge now can’t be launched against me until December.  In any event, here is no agreement within my Party on a successor.  It would be irresponsible to foist a leadership election on it, with March 29 looming, and there is no obvious alternative Prime Minister.

“It is clear that the House does not support this deal.  But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support.  Nothing about how – or even if – it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold.”

In other words, it will soon become clear that the Commons can’t settle on an alternative to my deal, after all.  The same MPs who rejected it this evening will be forced to swallow it – with, God willing, some real change on the backstop – when this becomes clear.  The deal is also a known quantity with the EU, which the alternatives aren’t.

Better mention the referendum, too.  Honouring its result is still the default position of most of the Parliamentary Party.  I must keep Sajid and Jeremy and Steve and Penny and Andrea and Chris onside.  Best to say nothing about an extension to Article 50, though.  With any luck, that can still be avoided.

“People, particularly EU citizens who have made their home here and UK citizens living in the EU, deserve clarity on these questions as soon as possible.  Those whose jobs rely on our trade with the EU need that clarity.  So with your permission Mr Speaker I would like to set out briefly how the Government intends to proceed.”

That’s a nod of the head to all those tiresome people who drone on about EU citizens – don’t they see that the priority is to get net immigration down to the tens of thousands? – plus the CBI and the car manufacturers.  Anyway, I must keep David and Phil and Greg and Amber and David onside.”

“First, we need to confirm whether this Government still enjoys the confidence of the House.  I believe that it does, but given the scale and importance of tonight’s vote it is right that others have the chance to test that question if they wish to do so.  I can therefore confirm that if the Official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form required by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow.  And if, as happened before Christmas, the Official Opposition decline to do so, we will – on this occasion – consider making time tomorrow to debate any motion in the form required from the other opposition parties, should they put one forward.”

That’s you pre-empted, Corbyn.  Mind you, once he’s lost his no confidence vote he’ll come under even more pressure to support a second referendum.  And whether he folds or not, he hasn’t got much alternative but to call soon for an extension to Article 50, in order to carry out his imaginary Labour Government’s imaginary “Labour renegotiation”.

That will be tricky for him, because calling for an extension will look like backsliding on Brexit.  We must nail him on that.  Hmm, hang on a minute.  I might need an extension too – to get my deal through, or else…and I must keep very quiet about this…to try to stave off No Deal chaos.  Best not to push him too hard.  Anyway, while there isn’t a majority in the Commons for revocation, there might be for extension.

“Second, if the House confirms its confidence in this Government I will then hold meetings with my colleagues, our Confidence & Supply partner the DUP and senior Parliamentarians from across the House to identify what would be required to secure the backing of the House.  The Government will approach these meetings in a constructive spirit, but given the urgent need to make progress, we must focus on ideas that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House.”

This is the diciest bit of all.  I need Yvette and her gang to come round to my deal.  That suggests flirting with a Norway-type solution and Customs Union membership.  Which would please David and Phil and Greg and Amber and David.  But I also need Jacob and his lot.  That implies no Customs Union and a Canada-flavoured deal.  Which would please Sajid and Jeremy and Steve and Penny and Andrea and Chris.

Better to keep talking and listening and listening and talking until they all concede the obvious: that there’s no alternative to my deal – the only offer that’s “genuinely negotiable”.  I won’t win Yvette and Hillary and the rest round by next week, but the seeds will have been sown.  So I must be very nice to them…but not so nice as to upset Brandon and Graham and the ’22.”

Third, if these meetings yield such ideas, the Government will then explore them with the European Union.

Fat chance!

“Mr Speaker I want to end by offering two reassurances.”

“The first is to those who fear that the Government’s strategy is to run down the clock to 29th March.  That is not our strategy.”

Yes, it is. But –

“I have always believed that the best way forward is to leave in an orderly way with a good deal and have devoted much of the last two years negotiating such a deal.”

That’s the point: the deal, the deal, the deal. Nothing has changed.

“As you confirmed Mr Speaker, the amendment to the business motion tabled last week by my Right Honourable and Learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield is not legally binding, but the Government respects the will of the House.  We will therefore make a statement about the way forward and table an amendable motion by Monday.”

Let Dominic table his Second Referendum Bill.  Let Nick try to get the Commons to settle on Norway Plus.  And let the Speaker bend over backwards to help them, which he will do.  Let them have their indicative votes and new Bills – which I probably can’t stop now, anyway.  It’s one thing to table a Bill but quite another to get it through the House.

So let’s table a motion next week that dresses up my deal with a bit of new language, sit back – and enjoy the show.  Sure, I can see how the House might, just might, settle on some Norway option before the end of March.  But accepting it would risk splitting the Party in two.  And it wouldn’t sort immigration.  Which will force MPs back to my deal…

“The second reassurance is to the British people, who voted to leave the European Union in the referendum two and a half years ago.  I became Prime Minister immediately after that referendum.  I believe it is my duty to deliver on their instruction and I intend to do so.”

Better mention the referendum again. Kill off any speculation that I’m backing off the result.

“Mr Speaker every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancour. The Government has heard what the House has said tonight, but I ask Members on all sides of the House to listen to the British people, who want this issue settled, and to work with the Government to do just that.”

Except, of course, it won’t be resolved.  When my deal passes, we’ll have the trade negotiation to sort.  The Political Declaration to flesh out.  Getting the deal and a Bill to enact the Withdrawal Agreement is only the start.  Years more of Brexit lie ahead!

And to get the best out of them, the country will need leadership. Knowledge of the process.  Experience.  A settled hand on the tiller.  When I promised the ’22 I’d quit before the next election I meant it, of course.  But perhaps some things can change, after all…

407 comments for: May’s statement about the Government’s plans now. What she said and what she meant.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.