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Analysis

Rudd(er)less cabinet is opportunity for People’s Vote

by Luke Lythgoe | 30.04.2018

Amber Rudd’s resignation is both bad news and good. The loss of a pro-European on the frontbench could be counterbalanced by the arrival of a heavyweight on the backbenches, just when Tory rebels are gearing up for their next big battles.

Though Rudd’s tenure as home secretary was not ended by anything Brexit-related, her departure looms large over the Brexit process.

The resignation of such a heavy-hitter threatens to destabilise Theresa May’s finely balance cabinet – at a critical time when key policies on post-Brexit immigration and customs arrangements are being decided.

Rudd has been replaced by communities secretary Sajid Javid. He was a Remainer, but not with the same passion as Rudd. He announced his backing for Remain during the referendum by arguing the UK should never have joined the EU in the first place. A Cabinet source at the time said Javid “managed to piss everyone off” with his umming and ahhing over whether Remain or Leave better suited his career prospects. Javid is also not a May loyalist, but rather a former acolyte of George Osborne – the man who joked about having May chopped up in his freezer.

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Javid is therefore not the counterweight to Boris Johnson and Michael Gove that Rudd provided. Watch this Wednesday as May tries to push through her “customs partnership” plan at a war-cabinet meeting, a convoluted fudge that has been written off as unworkable by Brexiters, pro-Europeans and the EU alike. This row has seen leading Brexiters, including David Davis, calling for May’s top Brexit civil servant Olly Robbins to be sacked, according the Sunday Times. Speculation, already denied, is also swirling over Davis and Johnson’s resignation on the issue. It’s looking shaky at the top.

Rudd’s departure also leaves the government’s immigration policy up in the air. She was seeking a deal in which EU citizens would get preferential access to benefits, healthcare and the UK jobs market after Brexit, according to the Sunday Times, which called it a “labour mobility partnership”. Javid has previously pursued a liberal immigration agenda, and Rudd’s fate will have taught him the perils of following May’s “hostile environment” policy. But will he be strong enough to exert himself in the face of Brexiter pressure?

Good news for people’s vote?

While chaos is unpredictable, Rudd’s resignation could help the campaign for a people’s vote. Having spoken strongly against Brexit during the referendum, will she now ally with Tory “mutineers” such as Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan – even acting as a rallying figure for other wavering Conservatives?

Without her restraining influence, the government’s Brexit may tip in a harder direction. Though a hard Brexit would be bad for the country, it could be an easier target for Tory rebels to defeat in Parliament, and for the general public to turn against.

The manner of Rudd’s departure will also raise alarm bells. EU citizens in the UK must be wondering: if the home secretary doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in the Home Office, who does? And will there be a system in place to protect my rights once the UK leaves the EU?

These are potentially chaotic times ahead. But that also means potential opportunities to push for and win a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Rudd(er)less cabinet is opportunity for People’s Vote”

  • I agree with the analysis concerning the departure from Cabinet of Rudd. However, I do find it ironic that David Davis, whose mental capacity is demonstrably limited, should prefer to have Olly Robbins removed from his advisory role. As with his EU strategy, Davis finds it better to run away rather than fight his corner. Robbins is using logic. Davis is using…well what ..hope, emotion, opportunity? What does a failed politician do when he comes to the end of a lackluster career?

  • I believe that hard brexit’s back has been broken, whatever the cabinet decides. The Lords position re. putting Parliament over the executive has meant that pragmatism will win over right wing ideology.

    The howling by leader writers and posters in the Torygraph shows that they know deep down they have lost and that the direction will either be a super soft Andrex Labrador Puppy brexit, or we’re back in the game.

    EEA/Efta membership plus a customs union agreement would still involve some loss, as many large firms will invest and setup where they can lobby the EU with their views. This might be taken as an argument that a hard brexit would produce a better result, but with time, hopefully that could be disproved.