In Parliament a glimmer of hope has emerged ahead of the vote on Theresa May’s seemingly doomed Brexit deal. It’s not that it suddenly has a hope of passing as it is – instead it’s that a backbencher amendment could carve a way out of the Brexit deadlock.
Usually loyal backbencher Andrew Murrison has tabled an amendment for the withdrawal agreement which sets an expiry date for the backstop for December 31 2021. A time limited backstop is something the EU has rejected but Tory Brexiteers (and the DUP) demand one if they are to support May’s deal. Such a change would most likely require the reopening of the withdrawal agreement – something both May and the EU have said they are reluctant to do.
This amendment is not backed by the government – and the whips are not telling MPs to vote for it. However, a number of ministers are privately telling colleagues they should consider backing it. Members of government who have spoken to Coffee House see it as a way forward and think wavering MPs ought to back it. This is for two reasons. Firstly, they argue it would show Brussels what would be required to get a deal though UK Parliament. Secondly, it would save Theresa May some humiliation on Tuesday. If this amendment was successfully added, more MPs would be able to vote for the deal – meaning hacks couldn’t write that this was the worst defeat suffered by a Prime Minister in recent history.
However, any triumph – or reduced defeat – would be a hollow victory as the deal would be invalid – MPs would have voted on something the EU has not – and may never – agree to. Despite these concerns, an increasing number of May loyalists see it as way to lessen the prime minister’s troubles ahead of a bruising night.