Right now, as I say in the magazine this week, Theresa May doesn’t have the political space to make further significant concessions to the EU. Without significant concessions, the EU isn’t going to agree to the Chequers plan.
This is why a growing number of Cabinet Ministers are already talking about when the government should move on from Chequers and put a different offer – closer to a Canada-style deal – on the table. One influential member of the cabinet insists that this is the key issue: whether Theresa May has ‘the agility to change tack’. Another explains that his faction is doing their bit to try to persuade the country and the party of the merits of Chequers because they’ll be in a ‘stronger position to urge her to pivot away if we have tried to sell it’.
But there is one thing that could change this. If the Brexit ultras forced a no confidence vote against Mrs May and she won it resoundingly, which she would right now, then she would be protected from a Tory challenge for 12 months. In these circumstances, she might well feel that she had the political space to make further concessions to the EU to try and get a deal.
This is why the cannier ERG types don’t want to force a leadership challenge. They know that not only would they not win it, but that it would remove their leverage and leave them in a worse position than they are now.