Up to 80 Tory MPs are prepared to vote against Theresa May’s Chequers plan, a former Brexit minister has warned.
Steve Baker told the BBC the PM’s blueprint for future relations with the EU had alienated Leavers and Remainers.
I’ve no idea how this all gets resolved, but here are a few factors to consider:
1. The government voluntarily calling a general election looks highly unlikely as the latest polling shows Labour ahead marginally.
2. Boris Johnson clearly wants to challenge May, but as ever with him there are considerable obstacles which mainly derive from his own choice of colourful and many say inappropriate language and his apparent inability to avoid chasing much younger ladies. Most people that I know believe he looks ridiculous and is not a future PM. However, so far he seems to be the preferred candidate of the hard Brexit supporters to take on May. I am pretty confident that a leadership election will take place, but am far from confident about who wins, other than I doubt it will be Johnson.
3. Labour are in a mess and Corbyn seems remote and out of touch, but they are in a position where it’s conceivable to win more seats than the Tories in a general election. I find this quite incredible, but it’s very important to understand just how unpopular the Tories have become. I’m far from sure there’s a dominant theme behind their unpopularity.
4. Labour really might split and there does seem to be some traction behind the idea of a new centre left party, possibly based on the Liberals. This would be a major supporter of remaining in the EU. If Corbyn continues to support Brexit then a split seems more likely. The unions are pushing him hard to change party policy and support remain.
5. Regardless of party, most MP’s don’t want to leave the EU. The numbers quoted are usually around 450 so a big majority. It’s claimed that this block will never allow a no deal Brexit and I tend to think that’s true, given the turmoil and lack of loyalty to the leader in both major parties.
6. There’s now evidence that other EU countries are becoming alarmed by the possibility of no deal. It is claimed that both France and Germany are starting to push the EU commission to show more flexibility and Barnier, the chief EU negotiator, appears much more nervous about being blamed if the UK just walks away.
7. There’s a big push from several quarters for a referendum to decide on May’s final proposed deal. Such a referendum, if it happens, will include an option to halt Brexit. Current polling supports a win for remain, but the margin is quite close so it’s not a shoe in. Most Brexit supporters don’t want one, but can’t agree on the details of how to exit.
Bit of a muddle really.