Theresa May faces a devastating Commons defeat over Brexit within weeks if she continues to deny parliament a meaningful vote on the final deal with the EU, Tory and Labour MPs have warned.
With the withdrawal bill returning to the Commons on Tuesday, a cross-party group who oppose a hard Brexit and are co-operating on tactics say they believe they have the numbers to defeat the government if they are denied such a vote.
Some Tories say they are even more determined to insist on parliament’s right to veto a bad or no deal because the prime minister appears not to have responded to any of their concerns over recent weeks.
Meanwhile, a secret memo to May written by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove dictating terms for a hard Brexit has emerged. In blunt terms, the pair tell the prime minister to “underline her resolve” to achieve a total break with Brussels, and name 30 June 2021 as the fixed end of Britain’s transition period after leaving the EU in March 2019. The missive will undoubtedly lead critics to say the prime minister is being held hostage by the leading Brexiters.
Ten Conservative MPs have put their names to an amendment, tabled by the Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve, which calls for the final withdrawal deal to be approved through a separate statute, which would mean MPs would get the vote they seek. Chuka Umunna, the Labour co-chair of the cross-party group on EU relations, said he believed enough Tory MPs would stand firm.
Not So Fast
Eurointelligence sums up the situation quite a bit differently.
May is coming under pressure from all sides. As the Guardian reports, she may lose an important vote in the House of Commons over the Repeal Bill, as pro-European Tories have aligned with Labour to demand what they call a "meaningful" vote on the Repeal Bill and the Article 50 agreement. There is monumental dishonesty about the concept of "meaningful" because Article 50 only allows for a take-it-or-leave-it vote on Brexit. A meaningful vote will thus presumably imply a Brexit revocation, something the government will simply not accept. What this means is that we are heading for a major confrontation. The House of Commons may vote against the Repeal Bill - which, if pushed through all the way, could lead to legal chaos over Brexit. But, unless the house can unify and propose a Brexit Revocation Bill - which we don't see as likely even under a scenario of a no-deal Brexit - the government's position is likely to prevail.
In the UK, the debate about Brexit revocation continues. Lord Kerr said it can be done. Tony Blair says so. And so does Gordon Brown. We also think that it is theoretically possible, but not easy to achieve even if the May government collapses and new elections are held. The reason is that it would require not only a formal request by the British Parliament to instruct the government to ask for a revocation. The more problematic issue is that the EU is only likely to accept it on a number of conditions. The legal view in Brussels is that a Brexit revocation would have to be mutually agreed.
Fraser Nelson is probably not right in his argument that there is legally no way of overturning the Article 50 process because the Supreme Court gave its Article 50 ruling on the assumption that Article 50 was irrevocable. While this is true, this does not amount to a formal conclusion by the court that an Article 50 trigger is irrevocable. It was an issue on which both plaintiffs and the government agreed, and which the court merely took as given. It is possible the Supreme Court, or the European Court of Justice, may eventually rule on this issue, and we would not take a ruling for granted. It has been our view that a revocation is possible if both sides want it, and can agree the terms. The difficulty will be the terms. The reason we think it is unlikely is not fundamentally legal but political. A majority of MPs would have to come out and support no Brexit - as opposed to hiding behind the meaningless notion of a meaningful vote. We are nowhere near this.
I believe Eurointelligence has this correct.
Moreover, would the Tories sink May just to have Labour take over, when most of Labour is in favor of Brexit?
Finally, all nations in the EU would have to approve letting the UK back in. They would of course, for a price: more money, a commitment to hike corporate taxes, and a commitment to adopt the euro as a currency all come to mind.
Color me more than a bit skeptical that this all takes place.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock