18 Jul 2018

Theresa May and Brexit rebels face off as threat of general election grows

“We are on a cliff edge, leaning right forward, losing our centre of gravity and about to fall into the abyss of 20 years in the wilderness. I can’t see anyway round it. We are inviting Jeremy Corbyn to form a government.” One former minister, this morning, on the state of the Conservative Party. The minister even helpfully made the tilting move forward and looked sick as he did it.

Theresa May’s whips yesterday deployed the threat of a general election, her political nuclear deterrent, so desperate were they to win the day and batter down pro-Remain rebels. But there are strong indications that her ERG nemesis was ready to press the same button to do her harm.

Theresa May had a conference call with Tory activists before getting to PMQs. ConHome has some lines from the previous consultations and the line that the government is going to produce a myth buster guide for supporters to rally the rest of the party around.

In the Commons I could hear some cheering for Theresa May when she got up to answer questions at noon but I couldn’t see many lips moving. I think a smaller number of people than usual were making more noise than usual.

ConHome has another piece here which is very interesting. It suggests the time has come to consider parking the U.K. in EEA status for 4 years (starting on Brexit day, coming instead of the transition) while more time is taken to work out a Free Trade Agreement.

I have a funny feeling if she traced back her memory, Theresa May might recall suggestions like this were made to her soon after she came to office. And some think the EU might have been up for this if it had been part of an opening approach but with a lot of blood under the bridge in the intervening months might take some convincing now.

It would, the ConHome logic runs, be a Nixon to China exercise that would require a new (presumably Brexiteer) leader to lead the operation and take the Tories into a general election next year.

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