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Analysis

Tory turmoil can’t be excuse to drag out Brexit misery

by Luke Lythgoe | 12.12.2018

Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party at 6pm today. The 48 letters needed for a leadership challenge have now gone in to the chair of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers.

This is a dramatic moment of high politics, no doubt, but in the long run it won’t change the big picture. The government’s Brexit project has failed, none of the promises made in 2016 can be kept. The final decision should now be handed back to the public – because only the people can sort this out.

The important thing is that a People’s Vote is set in motion sooner rather than later. Politicians must not prolong the uncertainty that is hurting the economy.

This Tory leadership challenge could go either way: with May clinging on or voted out and a leadership contest triggered.

If May survives, it will become clear by the EU summit at the end of the week that she won’t get any new concessions on the government’s unpopular deal. There will then be no excuse to delay a parliamentary vote on it further. If she tries to kick it into the New Year, Labour should call a vote of no confidence in the government itself – an option it is keeping open, according to the Guardian.

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Note that we are talking about two votes of confidence here: an internal Conservative Party one today to determine whether May stays as its leader; and a potential vote among all MPs to determine whether there should be a general election.

A Tory leadership challenge will waste weeks of time with no chance of a more workable Brexit solution in the long run. There will presumably be a delay in presenting a Brexit plan to MPs. But this must not be used by Labour to delay its next move. Again, it must call a no confidence vote before MPs break for Christmas next week, whether May is keeping the seat warm until a new prime minister is chosen or a caretaker has taken the job.

Labour may well say it should wait even longer. But the nation is crying out for leadership – and the party will suffer if it is seen to be conspiring with hard Brexiters to run down the clock under which we are due to quit the EU on March 29.

Labour will probably fail to secure a general election. But at that point it can move to the next logical step in its policy – backing a People’s Vote.

This country has been held to ransom for too long by Conservative infighting over Brexit. We no longer have time to waste on internal party politics. It’s time for this decision to be given back to the people.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

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