Tory chief whip Michael Gove has been calling round MPs to suggest that it might be better if Britain does not opt back into the European Arrest Warrant, Coffee House has learned.
Gove is aware that there will be a significant rebellion on the opt-in, with some estimating that around 50 Tory MPs already plan to vote against the measure. But this tactic, which some MPs think signals a dispute in government about the policy, and some think is simply the chief whip trying to sound out backbenchers using confusing and ornate language, could inflate the rebellion. Some MPs deeply involved in the brewing revolt believe Gove is actually encouraging colleagues to believe the opt-in will not happen, and that in the end 80 Conservatives could vote against, making it one of the bigger rebellions of this Parliament.
One MP said Gove approached him recently to make this intriguing suggestion:
‘The way it was broached to me was what would I think if we just did not opt back into the European Arrest Warrant? I thought this was better late than never and it must be that there is movement in Number 10 on this.’
The theory among some MPs is that Number 10 would now like to remain outside the EAW but that Theresa May is refusing to budge. The rumour sweeping the party is that the government is preparing to turn tail on this. There are no other indications that this would be the case, with the Prime Minister giving no impression that he would yield on the EAW when he spoke to the No Turning Back group of Tory MPs yesterday afternoon.
Others think the chief whip is trying to be cunning. One says: ‘He’s just doing it so that he can tell David Cameron that “I told you so” about how many would rebel.’ The way he is phrasing the question, though makes it sound to those listening as though an opt-out is being considered.
On this and on the possibility of a points-based system for EU migration that Coffee House covered yesterday, if the PM and Gove are showing more leg than they intend to, they’ll find their party is even more difficult to control.
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