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Where does May go from here?

15 December 2018

10:56 AM

15 December 2018

10:56 AM

How does Theresa May break the Brexit logjam? Well, as I write in the Sun this morning, there are three ways to do this being discussed by Cabinet Ministers—the situation is now such that ministers don’t feel there’s anything disloyal about discussing contingency plans.

The first option would see the government back an amendment to May’s deal when it comes to the Commons for a vote in January. The government would accept an amendment that added a sunset clause to the backstop, this would mean that it would expire after a defined period of time unless parliament voted to keep it going.

With that change, May’s deal would have a fighting chance of passing the Commons. Some in government think that this might just be enough to win over the DUP.

May could then return to Brussels and tell EU leaders that this is the deal that can pass the Commons. It would then be up to them whether to engage with this plan or not. Those close to May, though, are deeply sceptical of whether the EU will engage with any fundamental changes to the backstop.

There is then, a bigger group of Cabinet Ministers who want to let parliament vote on what should happen next. The hope is that this would allow May to entertain options she has previously ruled out.

‘A second referendum is where the Remainers in the Cabinet are heading’, reports one Secretary of State. The thinking is that the government would initially propose a choice between May’s deal and no deal, allowing her to say that she wasn’t questioning the result of the 2016 referendum. However, parliament would then insist on Remain being on the ballot paper.

Other Cabinet Ministers, though, are completely and utterly opposed to a second referendum. One tells me ‘it would be the end of the Tory party’. Another predicts that it would lead to the Tories ‘getting crucified’ by the electorate.

These Ministers are still determined to try and find a way to pass May’s deal. Something they think might give it more of a chance is if Theresa May said she’d stand down once it is through. She won’t like this idea, but it might just give her deal a chance of passing.

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