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Was it always going to be like this? Brexit roundup Nov 15

After two years of bitter political debate, it seems obvious with the benefit of hindsight that this is where we’d end up, with a messy compromise.  Not quite in, not quite out, reflecting the very split nature of the country and the strong rear guard action fought by Remainers since June 2016.  Despite achieving a feat in getting a deal agreed with the EU in the first place, Theresa May appears to have pleased nobody this morning.  Brexiters feel this is a betrayal of their wish to make their own decisions, free from Brussels’ grasp, Remainers still aren’t getting their precious second referendum to try and convince people to change their minds.  

Some are blaming the Prime Minister – and a lot of blame surely lies at her door – for not finding a better way through.  She held an unnecessary election that reduced her room for manoeuvre, used inflammatory language that failed to ingratiate her with those who lost the referendum or with her counterparts in the EU, and then went back on some of her commitments to Leavers.  She managed to upset everyone.  There’s no point in pretending however that there was a clear way through, and that someone else may have done a better job.  That is not however likely to stop both sides from wondering.

With Cabinet resignations happening now, the numbers likely to support the Prime Minister – already very slim – are dwindling by the hour.  Jacob Rees-Mogg is urging his grouping to vote against the deal, Remainers on both sides are weighing up the gamble of voting against in the hope it will push a second referendum, the DUP look likely to vote against it if they feel it puts a sheet of paper between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the SNP, Lib Dems, and Labour have already said they would vote against.  We still haven’t heard from Scottish Tories, known to be concerned about their positioning vis-à-vis the SNP.  As the numbers stack up in front of us, it’s a wonder the Prime Minister is even bothering to table the deal with Parliament in the first place.

So where next?  If, as seems likely, the deal fails to pass, the Prime Minister may go back to Brussels to try to get something extra.  And what if that’s not successful, or still looks unappealing?  Option One – Remainers would like a second referendum, but that’s only going to happen if they force the Prime Minister’s hand.  That could happen but there’s no indication yet that is likely, and will only happen if the PM feels there’s no alternative.  Option Two – there is a General Election, and that really doesn’t solve anything, as we’d take up precious time voting and still slide towards Brexit day with no deal.  Option Three – there is no deal, and as unpalatable as that may be, it’s the easiest outcome to achieve because MPs don’t have to do anything for that to happen.

Among all this, there’s the possibility swirling that a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister may be called today.  It’s not clear how losing the PM at this stage would be helpful, even if you disagree with her, because any replacement would take more than a week to get up to speed on the job.  So British politics is, to put it mildly, in a bit of a mess this morning.  But then, this is just all the division and bitterness that the last years coming to the surface. 

Top Brexit reads this morning

  • The Government has released the full draft text of the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU after two years of negotiations with the bloc, following a 5 hour Cabinet meeting last night. [] [City AM]
    • The paper has caused two Ministerial resignations, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey and Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara. [BBC News]
      • Around a third of the Cabinet expressed concerns about the deal, while International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom are also reportedly “considering” their positions. [The Sun]
    • It has also sparked controversy in the ERG and pro-Brexiteer factions:
      • The Times’s Sam Coates has reported that the ERG has formally changed strategy on Theresa May’s leadership, and could trigger an imminent no-confidence vote, with one source telling Coates that the vote is a question of “when not if”. [The Times]
      • ERG member Nadine Dorries told Robert Peston last night that she “absolutely” believes Conservative Chairman Graham Brady will have received the 48 letters needed from MPs to trigger the vote by lunchtime today. [The Express]
      • Nick Timothy, May’s former Chief of Staff, has accused the Prime Minister of “capitulation” and a “horror show”. [The Telegraph]
    • Media reaction has also proved critical, as The Sun’s front page reads “We’re in the Brexs*it”. [The Sun]
    • May will make a statement on the deal to the House of Commons this morning at 10:30am, following by a question and answer session with MPs that could last up to three hours. [The Sun]
    • A poll undertaken by Politico last night has shown that only 16 percent of respondents thought the draft agreement was a “good deal”, while only 28% said MPs should approve it. [Politico]
  • European Council President Donald Trusk and EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier have held a joint press conference this morning, confirming that a EU summit will be held on 25th November to ratify the deal. [Politico]


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