How did the government manage to engineer a ‘compromise’ amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that’s left it in greater danger of a defeat? On Tuesday, Theresa May gave the pro-Remain rebels assurances that there would be an amendment that they could support in order to avoid defeat on that day, but the amendment published by the government clearly hasn’t met those assurances.
It also initially seems bafflingly clumsy that the key figure on the Remain side, Dominic Grieve, was not consulted about the final wording of the government’s amendment. Why drop something on the chief rebel when you want to avoid a rebellion?
The explanation for this seems to be that there was no way the government could table an amendment that would satisfy Grieve et al, and so the only way to get it out would be to have an element of surprise. But Grieve’s allies don’t think this is the work of Theresa May. Instead, they are pointing the finger at David Davis, alleging not only that the Brexit Secretary didn’t want to compromise on the matter of a ‘meaningful vote’, but also that his refusal to do so is down to a desire to undermine the Prime Minister’s authority and destabilise her government.
There’s also a theory that the Brexiteers want to set the Remainers up as the fall guys if Brexit goes wrong. One key rebel tells me: ‘They know that their Brexit isn’t going to work, so they want to make it seem as if it’s our fault.’
And so the split in the Tory party has become acrimonious once again. That’s enough of a problem for May, but she now has a new personal weakness. The Remainers decided to take May at her word on Tuesday, and now feel her word wasn’t worth what it seemed. Whatever happens over the next few days, the Prime Minister now has even more MPs who really don’t trust her.