Faced with a choice between a humiliating defeat or moving a vote in order to delay a humiliating defeat, Theresa May has plumped for the latter. This morning, cabinet sources say the Prime Minister made the decision to delay the vote on her Brexit deal. Despite No.10 insisting repeatedly this morning that the vote would go ahead on Tuesday, the scale of defeat appears to have become too much and there are now plans to try and shelve it. Cabinet sources suggest that the vote will be moved to January. The vote could still go ahead if May’s opponents find a procedural ruse by which to thwart the government.
This afternoon Theresa May will give a statement to the Commons, Andrea Leadsom will then speak – presumably on what will happen to the two remaining days of Brexit debate and then Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will speak. Barclay’s statement is expected to be on the ECJ ruling that Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked. Given that just yesterday Barclay was insisting the vote would go ahead, that’s probably for the best.
So, why has May seemingly changed her mind? It seems that the pressure from cabinet ministers convinced her to change course. Ministers made the case to her that a large defeat wouldn’t just mean the end of May’s deal – it could mean the end of her government. How does she attempt to turn things around? The plan appears to be that May will go to Brussels and attempt to win some caveats on the backstop to boost support for her deal. There’s a chance Brussels won’t play ball when she attends the EU Council meeting on Wednesday. In short, May’s premiership remains in real trouble and a confidence vote could still follow.