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Analysis

Chaos reigns as Brextremists grab the wheel from May

by Luke Lythgoe | 17.07.2018

Theresa May’s Brexit banger is on fire, swerving wildly across the road, and Jacob Rees-Mogg has just grabbed the steering wheel. This is no way to run a country, especially during the most important negotiations in generations. We need a People’s Vote before politicians drive us over the cliff.

The self-destructive Tory infighting over the last couple of weeks looks like a family picnic compared to scenes in Parliament yesterday. May narrowly scraped through votes on her Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill – twice by a majority of just three – by caving into amendments tabled by Rees-Mogg’s hard-Brexit ERG outfit.

It looks very much like the Brextremists are now dictating government policy. The Brexit plan May forced through at Chequers has gone down particularly badly with rank-and-file Tories in the country, with her chief of staff described as being “spanked” during a conference call with regional Tory leaders, according to The Times.

But May can expect a backlash from pro-European MPs. Tory minister Guto Bebb quit his post at the Ministry of Defence last night to vote against the government’s ERG-amended bill. Today sees another piece of legislation, the Trade Bill, debated in the Commons – with signs that pro-European rebels will try to defeat the government over an amendment to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU.

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The chances of a government defeat went up this morning when Labour announced it would back the amendment. Yesterday, Lib Dems Vince Cable and Tim Farron missed the unexpectedly close votes. They’re unlikely to miss the next ones. Expect voting sometime before 7pm.

The big-picture question is where this leaves the Brexit negotiations. Some have claimed May’s Chequers deal is already “dead in the water” because the EU will never accept the ERG amendments demanding, among other things, reciprocal collection of each other’s customs tariffs by the UK and EU. The government denies this, deploying technical arguments to insist the amendments aren’t as hardline as they seem.

It’s worth remembering that, in its original form, May’s deal was never a runner. It was unlikely to get past the EU without further concessions. But yesterday showed the Brextremists flexing their muscles very effectively, potentially clamping down on the government’s future flexibility in Brussels. That brings the chances of a catastrophic “no deal” Brexit closer.

This is chaos. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for pro-Europeans in the long run. There’s no majority for May’s deal in Parliament, but also no majority for a no-deal Brexit either. Increasingly the only sensible option is to take the whole sorry mess off the politicians and give it to the people to decide.

It seems May has a shorter-term tactic – to bring Parliament’s summer holiday five days forward to Thursday. It really does look the prime minister has run out of ideas. Here’s one: stop the madness and hand this calamitous Brexit process over to a People’s Vote.

Edited by Quentin Peel

5 Responses to “Chaos reigns as Brextremists grab the wheel from May”

  • A idea of a second referendum is ridiculous, the people have voted and the majority backed leave, there is no need for a further vote, that has already been decided, it is up to the government to get on with delivering what the country voted for, not try and fudge the issue

  • Sorry Baz, but you are being woefully simplistic. Just as Brexiters within May’s cabinet are split, so are Brexiters at large in the country.

    How many voted Leave to leave the Single Market and Customs Union? How many voted Leave but desired to stay within the SM and CU? Because we had Brexit campaigners suggesting Britain would be mad to leave the SM (Owen Patterson) and could be like Norway and Switzerland (Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan).

    Thus if Brexiters were promised differing outcomes by leading Brexiters, it’s safe to assume they voted Leave for different reasons too. Thus the idea Bexiters knew what they voted for is highly nonsensical. Brexit was decided for differing reasons without proper or informed consent.

    A referendum on the final deal is increasingly looking like the only way to get the country out of this self-imposed mire.

  • We now know that the Leave campaign was driven, not only by lies, but also by fraud and possibly other criminal offences. The whole thing should be forthwith be declared null and void.

  • ‘The People’ haven’t made a good fist in the last referendum so it might be counter-productive to give them another go. If anybody thinks there would be a time of calm and victory in the land if either side got their ‘majority’, please contradict me.
    The [email protected] Cameron decided to open this foolish Pandora’s box, and we will live with the results for many decades; all he seems to have done is make the Volk a cheap facsimile of his Party, including swivel-eyed loons inter alia.