12 Sep 2018

Tory rebels plan in the open as Brexit deal approaches

If a deal is signed at a special EU summit on 13 November, it will probably be pretty woolly on the future relationship. That seems to be the switch in approach that has made some officials dare to start mapping out a draft timetable for the weeks ahead.

The week beginning 26th November could see three or four days of debate with a vote potentially on Thursday 29th November. The intervening weeks could see tidying up of the text and language and much campaigning to try to win the vote.

No. 10 wants to appeal over the heads of MPs and win over a public they think desperately wants some kind of line drawn under events. They also want to reach out to Tory Party members. That, they hope, could grind down the number of Tory rebels and perhaps win over some Labour MPs to plug the holes left by Tories who can’t vote for Theresa May’s approach. That could mean trying to woo some pro-Remain Labour MPs to join pro-Brexit Opposition MPs like Frank Field and Kate Hoey in the same lobby, aiming to achieve different ends. Some likely Labour targets of that wooing say it most definitely hasn’t started yet.

MP Andrea Jenkyns has openly admitted that she was one of the MPs openly calling for an early vote of no confidence in Theresa May when the ERG group of Tory MPs met last night. She said a couple of “usual suspects” suggested that there might be the 48 MPs to trigger a vote but they couldn’t be sure of getting a majority of MPs’ backing. She said the meeting had a sense of real occasion about it, a milestone. Others said it was nothing of the sort and was simply a case of a few MPs refusing to listen to Steve Baker, chairing in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s absence, as he tried to nudge the agenda along.

The meeting had something like 50 parliamentarians in the room. One former minister who plots on the other side of the argument on Brexit said “any meeting of more than 6 people is now a public meeting … you should assume it leaks.”

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