The Cabinet aren’t even waiting for the meaningful vote to be lost to start discussing Plan Bs. As I say in The Sun this morning, multiple ministers are expecting a major row when Cabinet meets on Tuesday morning—ahead of the meaningful vote.
The row will be about what to do once the government has lost. One faction in the Cabinet believes that, in the words of one Secretary of State, ‘the only realistic route to go down is to force it into the EU’s hands’.
This would involve devising a motion that made clear under what conditions parliament would back the deal. Then saying to the EU, if you want to avoid no deal this is what we need to address. One Cabinet Minister who supports this approach says, ‘They don’t have the agility or the time to construct that for Tuesday. But they should devise it for 10 days time and bung it over to Europe’.
But another group of Cabinet Ministers think that May can only pass a deal with ‘significant Labour’ support and so she should invite Jeremy Corbyn in for talks after defeat on Tuesday. One champion of this approach tells me that ‘if she does it well, she can make him take some responsibility’.
This Secretary of State concedes, though, that they don’t know whether May will do this or not, saying that ‘she is like a train on one track. She doesn’t know how to move.’
So, what will Mrs May do? Well, one of the few who can claim to know her mind tells me that ‘if the votes won’t come from the Tories, they have to come from Labour. What are the conditions for that going to be?’ In other words, vote down this deal and Brexit only gets softer.
May’s deal is flawed. How could it not be given the failure to prepare properly for no deal which has so weakened the UK’s negotiating position and the loss of the Tory majority in parliament which has hobbled Mrs May.
But the reality is that if this deal doesn’t pass, Brexit will only be weakened. The government doesn’t want no deal and doesn’t think it could get it through this parliament even if it did. That means it will soften the deal to try and get Commons support for it.