Is June 3 going to be the crunch week?

by Hugo Dixon | 15.05.2019

The prime minister is promising to bring the legislation required for her Brexit deal to Parliament in the week of June 3 – setting the stage for what could be a momentous week in British politics.

On the face of things, Theresa May’s chances of getting MPs to back her miserable deal at the fourth try seem slender. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill (“WAB”) will lay out in excruciating detail how she has sold out our country’s interests. We will be turned into something approaching a “vassal state”, as Boris Johnson puts it – following EU rules and trade policies without any longer being at the table making those rules. And we won’t even protect our economy as we’ll only have partial access to our largest market.

What’s more, the prime minister seems to want to stop MPs debating our future relationship with the EU. This is incredibly sketchy as things stand, set out in a vague political declaration which isn’t even legally binding. But at least, under current legislation, MPs are required to approve it in a so-called “meaningful vote”. The WAB is expected to remove this requirement. That would make an already blindfold Brexit doubly blind.

Lots of hardline Tory MPs, including Johnson, held their noses and voted for May’s deal the last time it came to Parliament. Now that Nigel Farage is back with a vengeance screaming betrayal and the Conservative party is preparing for a leadership election, some of these MPs may rediscover their spines and vote against the deal.

On the other hand, it would be wrong to be complacent. In her desperation, the prime minister will throw everything she can into the pot to persuade more Labour MPs to back her deal. Pro-Europeans must keep the pressure on them not to fall for bribes that won’t be worth the paper they are written on.

But let’s imagine that May fails. What happens then?

In one scenario, she finally falls on her sword – perhaps to avoid the humiliation of a special convention of local Conservative party bigwigs on June 15 calling for her to go. At that point, the fight for her crown starts in earnest. But it’s hard to see it ending without a hardliner such as Johnson emerging victorious – and that could well trigger a general election.

Pro-Europeans need to prepare for that eventuality. They must push Jeremy Corbyn to finally come off the fence and unequivocally back a People’s Vote. They must also push the unequivocally pro-European parties – the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK – to join forces, especially if Farage and the Tories agree an electoral pact.

But with this prime minister, you can never be sure. Predictions of her political death have proved exaggerated in the past – and she might defy expectations yet again. In that case, pro-Europeans need to prepare for more trench warfare in Parliament before we get a People’s Vote.
We also need to prepare the  ground so we win a People’s Vote. That means boldly making the case for staying in the EU – showing how it is the best way to solve the climate crisis, increase our freedom, save the NHS and boost our power.

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This article was corrected after publication to clarify that May’s deal means we would only have partial access to the EU’s single market.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

3 Responses to “Is June 3 going to be the crunch week?”

  • This glorious prime minister’s days are definitely numbered now. If she doesn’t resign or is pushed out soon, I think she’ll definitely be pushed out in December when her no confidence protection runs out.

    She might resign soon if she completely runs out of road to get brexit through, since it’s clear since the start that this is her only aim and all her behaviours and tactics confirm it.

    Whether May going is a good thing or not, I’m not too sure at this point. She’s a master at keeping the deadlock going and the one thing we don’t want is to resolve the deadlock in brexit’s favour. Much better to be at deadlock indefinitely than definitely leave the EU, with any form of brexit. A new, hardcore leaver PM might well do that and likely with a no deal, too. Be careful what you wish for.

  • “what could be a momentous week in British politics.”

    I think I’m suffering from momentous-week-in-British-politics fatigue …

  • A final attempt? That’s what was said last time. Nothing to stop the vote being brought back for a forth or fifth time, so far as May is concerned. Yest she won’t allow the will of the people to be checked even once.