I’m clear that I am going to deliver Brexit, I’m going to deliver it on time, that’s what I’m going to do for the British public – I’ll be negotiating hard in the coming days to do just that. pic.twitter.com/kaMJ8YtY4Q
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) February 7, 2019
27/2/19 Update: This article was published this Monday, but its main point is still relevant, which is why we republish it again today.
Consider the tweet above and a claim yesterday, and you will understand why trust in Theresa May is low.
As recently as February 7, she was insisting that Brexit will be delivered on March 29 (see above). As readers know, she is now willing in the event of the Commons not approving a revised deal, to empower it to seek a delay in the implementation of Article 50, and a postponement of the date of Brexit.
Certainly, an amendment favouring that outcome has been drawn up by the Brexit Delivery Group of MPs. It is hard to believe that they are not acting as a proxy for Downing Street, or at least with its co-operation, in the previous manner of the so-called Murrison amendment.
The Prime Minister’s reasons for seeking an extension of Article 50 would be evident – and shaped by the fact that she has no revised deal to put to the Commons this week for a “meaningful vote”.
First, in its absence, she faces the likelihood of the Cooper-Letwin amendment passing on Wednesday. This would most likely lead both to an extension to Article 50 in any event, and to the Government’s loss of control of the UK side of the negotiations. Some of those who back Cooper-Letwin want a Soft Brexit; others no Brexit at all. Though the amendment doesn’t actually bar No Deal, that is its intention and such would be its possible effect.
Second, Cabinet members and other Ministers are threatening to vote for it, in defiance of Government policy. May is frightened that sacking them would turn them into open backbench opponents, or spur further defections to the Independent Group, or both.
Third, she is running out of time to deliver an agreement by March 29 in any event. Even were a revised deal to be passed by the Commons today, a short technical extension would probably be needed to get the acccompanying legislation through.
That the Prime Minister is mulling extending Article 50 would come as no surprise. This site has been regularly predicting the move. But any attempt to head off No Deal would clearly come in defiance of the wishes of Party members.
On Saturday, the National Convention of the Party met in Oxfordshire, and passed a motion backing Brexit and insisting that it must be delivered – even if accompanied by No Deal.
The National Convention isn’t some fly-by-night gathering of random activists.
It is, in the words of the Party’s own website, “effectively the parliament of the Voluntary Party”. Here is the text of the motion that it passed by an emphatic majority of 75 votes to 15.
“The National Convention supports the commitments the Prime Minister has made to the country to honour the European Union referendum result of 2016, that having triggered Article 50 we will leave the European Union on the 29 March 2019.
“Another referendum, a delay beyond the European elections, taking ‘no deal’ off the table or not leaving at all would betray the 2016 People’s Vote and damage democracy and our party for a generation.”
The annual general meeting season for local Associations is now upon us. We suggest that each one debates the same motion at its AGM during this coming month – substituting the words “this Association” for “the National Convention”.
Number Ten may not take much account of what party members think – that’s the same members who own the Party which its leaders represent – but a mass of local Associations backing up the National Convention would send a powerful signal to the Prime Minister.
It would also further bolster the legitimacy of Conservative MPs who are seeking to deliver the Party’s manifesto commitments – that’s to say, leaving the EU, deal or no deal. They will need all the support they can get during the coming weeks and months.