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The Waiting Game

We know that there isn't going to be an emergency Cabinet meeting today. The withdrawal plan could be discussed at the scheduled Cabinet meeting tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath. Nor am I holding my breath that an emergency meeting will be called for Wednesday. The chances of a special meeting of the EU27 to ratify a deal later this month are evaporating. 

How much of this is the EU demanding more, and how much of it is the Government playing for time, is a question I cannot answer. It is clear that Theresa May's woes got worse on Friday with the departure of Jo Johnson as a Transport Minister. He hinted that there could be more ministerial resignations on the way. We have heard that before, but Johnson's resignation has highlighted how unhappy many Remainer MPs are. As I have said repeatedly, Theresa May has backed herself into a corner, and at some point she is going to realise that she has no room for manoeuvre. 

This point was reiterated by John Whittingdale on BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour last night. “If the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan doesn’t get through Parliament I think it’s quite difficult to see how the Prime Minister can continue, because she has staked her credibility,” he said. “It’s very hard for her to turn round and say ‘OK, well my plan’s been torn up by Parliament, I’ll go away and think of another one.’" 

Whist Olly Robbins does his worst in Brussels, other voices are making it clear what their red lines are. Commons Leader Andrea Leadson has said we must be able to pull out of a backstop if we wish to do so - as has Liam Fox. It is also reported that Chris Grayling has made his thoughts clear to the PM privately. 

I do not believe this capitulation has majority support in the House of Commons. Although you will hear repeatedly that there isn't majority support for the UK trading under WTO terms, either, that is a red herring. We are leaving the EU on 29th March 2019. Parliament has already agreed to the date. If the House of Commons can't agree on a deal, we are leaving regardless, and that will mean trading on WTO terms. 

There are 137 days to go until 29th March. The EU does not want a "no deal" scenario. It will be a question of who blinks first. It is also not certain that Theresa May will still be Prime Minister for much longer. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the EU and Ireland change tack on the Irish border - which has always been a vastly inflated "problem". We will either leave on WTO terms or accept a Canada-style FTA. The Canada-style FTA may come quickly on the heels of the WTO option. Who knows? 

What is certain, though, is that there is not going to be a general election. Two-thirds of MPs have to vote in favour of the dissolution of Parliament. Labour wants a general election. I am sure the SNP and some of the other smaller parties want one, too. But I haven't spoken to a single Conservative MP who would vote in favour. They would be turkeys voting for Christmas. Incidentally, I haven't spoken to a single Conservative MP who wants Theresa May to lead them into the next election. 

Even if May was to go before Christmas, there is no way a new Conservative leader is about to whip their MPs into voting for an early general election. The idea is a non-starter. 


The above is an extract from today's 'Brexit at Noon' bulletin sent to members of The Freedom Association.  Click here to become a member todayStandard membership costs £30 a year. Seniors - £20 a year. Students (under 25s only) - £5 a year

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