The Prime Minister is teetering on the wire with her White Paper, which has not satisfied either side of the divide about what sort of Brexit the UK needs.
Theresa May is walking a tightrope, the ends of her balancing pole are heavily weighted. To the left are Labour—which is surging in the polls since the Chequers Deal was announced—and the Remainers in the divided Conservative Party. On the right are the ardent Brexiteers and the European Research Group (ERG) that will not accept compromises to UK’s exit from EU and the result of the 2016 referendum. The Prime Minister is teetering on the wire with her White Paper, which has not satisfied either side of the divide about what sort of Brexit the UK needs. Following the Dorset Conservative Association’s strongly negative dig at the Chequers Deal, wherein 65% of members doubt May’s ability to achieve what’s best for Britain, Conservative Home reports that No. 10 Downing Street is conducting a charm school to woo disaffected Tory officers, chairmen and activists around to their point of view. Apparently, No. 10 is releasing a “mythbuster” document this week and the PM and her ministers will be touring the country during the summer to secure better support.
The government reluctantly accepted the four amendments into the Customs Bill (properly named, it is the Taxation-Cross Border Trade Bill) from ERG, who are the mightiest Eurosceptic group, just enabling the Bill to be passed by the House of Commons. The vociferous Remain contingent wants to stop the influence of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chairman of the ERG. The Anna Soubry minority are the darlings of the EU, who will push for the softest Brexit and although the PM has ruled it out, Justine Greening wants to realise a second referendum.
Alas, during the Trade Bill voting, the Tory Party Chairman, Brandon Lewis reneged on a “pairing agreement” with a Liberal Democrat MP on maternity leave. It is a House of Commons tradition that an MP from one party who is unable to vote, can agree to “pair” with an MP from another party to miss a vote, balancing out the result. Lewis has apologised, pleading it was a mistake, but as it turns out, it may not have been an innocent mistake. The PM’s Chief Whip, Julian Smith was exposed by the Times urging three Tory MPs to abandon their pairing arrangements. The media has pounced on Lewis and Smith, saying they now lack credibility.
This week, May giggled as she told Andrew Marr on BBC that Donald Trump advised her to “sue the EU”. Is that such a funny idea? The US President also advised her not to walk away as then she would be stuck. A SkyData poll suggested 51% thought Trump was right to make his views on Brexit public. There have been two more important Chequers Deal protest resignations. Boris Johnson delivered his resignation speech, in which he claimed the Chequers Deal was “Brexit In Name Only” and the government had failed to make the case for a Free Trade Agreement, but there was yet time to save Brexit. Everyone is waiting to know how the ERG, Johnson and Steve Baker are going to do to save it. Brexiteer MPs are holding out for fundamental changes to the White Paper.
Nadine Dorries, MP, told BBC that the PM was surrounded by a “Remain establishment” and that the PM came very close to a vote of no confidence. The government proposed to bring forward the summer recess by five days to begin on Thursday, 19 July. This was presumed to be a plan to protect the PM from the impending vote of no confidence; the plan backfired as MPs did not want to cut short Brexit negotiations. A number of Tory MPs threatened to vote with Labour against the plan, thus it was abandoned.
The Irish peacock and Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar announced he was stepping up plans for a No Deal, as there was no guarantee Brussels would accept May’s proposals (how does he know?); he provocatively claimed that British planes could be banned from flying over Irish airspace as a result of a hard Brexit. “If they want their planes to fly over our skies, they would need to take that into account. You can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t take back your waters and then expect to take back other people’s sky.”
All the discontent has breathed new life into Nigel Farage, former UKIP leader, who wastes no time in calling out the efforts of the Prime Minister. It would not be impossible for UKIP to have a renaissance with Farage at the helm.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn faces renewed accusations of anti-Semitism and he calls for full co-operation from the police over Vote-Leave’s overspending on election expenses. Vote-Leave were fined £61,000 after the Electoral Commission watchdog found they channelled nearly £7K to BeLeave, a Brexiteer youth group. Corbyn has kept noticeably quiet on Brexit negotiations as he has inched up the polls.
If May survives till Tuesday, following the summer recess, her Brexit proposals go to the Lords and the Commons in the autumn. If they are accepted, she proceeds to the EU in October, the EU’s deadline to agree the Withdrawal Treaty and transition plan regarding free trade, laws/the ECJ, citizens, financial commitments, future relations and the open Irish border. Will Michel Barnier et al be in a co-operative mood or will the EU force the undesirable No Deal departure or could May delay the departure date as ex-PM Tony Blair suggested?