The Brexit rebellion has begun. After murmurs of discontent and Jacob Rees-Mogg editorials over the weekend, the kickback to Theresa May’s soft Brexit agreement has arrived in the form of a resignation from David Davis. Steve Baker – a former chair of the European Research Group – has followed suit and things are looking very fraught. No 10 remain confident that should 48 letters be fired off to Graham Brady – the chair of the 1922 committee – they would win that confidence vote.
But there’s another problem in all this. The European Research Group – made up of Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers – have turned on the Prime Minister and her Brexit blue print. A blue print that is expected to be watered down further. They have also been quick on WhatsApp to welcome David and Baker back into the fold. If Theresa May continues with her Brexit plan, it’s safe to presume that this group are very unlikely to back it – and vote for it. In their eyes, this is a ‘black hold Brexit’ which means the worst of both worlds.
That will be part of the reason that this afternoon – as May’s premiership hangs in the balance – her No 10 aide Gavin Barwell is scheduled to provide a ‘Chequers deal’ briefing to… Opposition MPs. No 10 are aware that they may need to rely on Labour, SNP and Lib Dem votes to get this deal through when it comes to the final vote. But given what the majority of these MPs are after – the softest Brexit possible – it seems May would need to go even further in concessions to win them round. Loyal Corbynista MPs who are less bound to the EU would rather bring about an early election than prop May’s plans up.
Alternatively, she needs to over come the Parliamentary arithmetic by changing tack and get the Brexiteers back on side – including the seven Labour Leavers. The problem is the numbers are so tight that neither option is easy. The Parliament numbers mean that ‘no deal’ remains on the table. And judging by today’s dramas, that option is increasing in likelihood.