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May’s bid to forge a Brexit deal with Corbyn is about to implode

24 April 2019

2:39 PM

24 April 2019

2:39 PM

There were no political decisions of any substance taken over Easter. The PM, ministers, all politicians were seemingly too exhausted to do anything but roll the Brexit egg down the hill.

So all the political news is about process, after the Cabinet and shadow cabinet made no Brexit decisions on Tuesday, and the 1922 Committee (guardian of Tory party rules) could not agree whether to expedite a new procedure to evict Theresa May.

The four bits of newsy stuff I have collected for you are:

1) There will be an emergency meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee on Tuesday to decide whether the party’s manifesto for the European Elections will contain a commitment that any Brexit deal should be put to a “confirmatory” referendum. Those pushing for the referendum – much of the parliamentary party, the giant GMB and Unison trade unions, MEPs – think they have the numbers, but they are NOT confident. It will be a huge moment.

2) The Tory 1922 Committee will decide on Wednesday afternoon whether to change party rules to permit an imminent vote of no confidence in the PM. Its decision will probably be disclosed to Tory MPs shortly afterwards, at the normal ‘22 gathering of all Tory MPs. Opinion on the ‘22 executive is split on whether to in effect allow leadership elections every few months rather than once a year at most – since this would destabilise May’s successor. But apparently there is a consensus May should resign at the end of May. I am told the ‘22 chairman Sir Graham Brady sees signs she may volunteer to quit on that kind of timescale. If he’s right, and if that is what she says one of these days, that will be another non-trivial moment.

3) Theresa May told her Cabinet on Tuesday she is minded to start debate on the last crucial piece of huge Brexit legislation, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, next week – though her colleagues are keen there should be no vote till after the local elections on Thursday, since defeat (which looks highly likely) would be devastating for the prospect of her version of Brexit ever being approved. The first WAB vote will be – you guessed – huge.

4) Both ministers and Labour frontbenchers tell me they will not be able to reach a cross-party compromise on Brexit that could see MPs belatedly approve a version of May’s deal. There are plenty of irreconcilable positions on both sides, but the most important is that the government cannot move far enough towards Labour’s version of a customs union. But the charade that the talks are serious and practical will probably be sustained till the end of the week, after discussions of environmental issues are concluded. But the reality is that the most intense effort on both sides is in working out how to protect themselves from the obvious recriminations.

When May’s attempt to forge a Brexit deal with Corbyn implodes, that too will be huge. Yogi Berra’s “it’s déjà vu all over again” was conceived for Brexit.

Robert Peston is ITV’s Political Editor. This article originally appeared in his ITV news blog


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