After the government suffered another defeat last night, MPs will seize control of the Commons and hold votes on various Brexit options on Wednesday. This means that by mid-week there could – in theory – be a majority for a different form of Brexit than May’s deal. The two options seen as likely to attract the most support involve a permanent customs union or a Norway-style relationship with the EU. Government ministers have been out on the airwaves today suggesting that this is further proof Brexit will only be softened further if May’s deal is voted down for a third time.
It’s a warning we’ve heard before but there are signs that it is beginning to yield results. Speaking to Conservative Home, Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested he could now reluctantly back the deal:
‘Is this deal worse than not leaving? No, definitely not. If we take this deal we are legally out of the EU… Being legally out is of great importance. It restores our independence.’
Rees-Mogg appears to suggest that a no-deal Brexit is unlikely:
‘The prime minister does not want to leave without a deal, the cabinet doesn’t want to leave without a deal, and the British parliament doesn’t want to leave without a deal. It is therefore very difficult to see how you get to leaving without a deal.’
The question is: will other Brexiteers now follow? No. 10 hope to hold a third meaningful vote on Thursday and see it as May’s last chance to pass her deal. Rees-Mogg is one of the Brexiteers viewed as pivotal to getting more MPs on side. Government aides hope to also convince Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab – then they believe there is a good chance of getting most of the European Research Group. At this point May could set out an exit date to get her deal over the line. However, May would still need votes from other parties to have the numbers. Given that relations between the government and the DUP are at a low – and Labour MPs are still seething over May’s speech last week – Rees-Mogg’s lukewarm endorsement may not be enough to get the deal over the line.