Theresa May is facing a Commons defeat tonight if the hard-Brexiteer backbenchers carry out their threat to vote against her. The vote was supposed to be so easy – merely re-iterating parliament’s support for the Brexit approach voted for on January 29th.
That was the Tuesday night when the Commons voted that May should seek alternatives to the backstop. Parliament also voted though, that no-deal should not happen, which is what the hard-Brexiteers don’t want to support. They say taking no-deal off the table would weaken May’s negotiating position but really they’re much less scared of no-deal than they should be.
Government defeat would be more symbolic than anything else though. While it would damage May’s chances of getting a better deal with Brussels, those chances were pretty slim anyway. To the public, another defeat would help make the Tory Party look a mess but then the whole of parliament has looked a mess for months and few are following all the twists and turns.
Much less likely to defeat the government is Tory Remainer Sarah Wollaston’s cross-party amendment. If voted for, this would make the government hold several binding votes in twelve days time. MPs would vote on May’s deal, no deal, a Norway-style deal and a second referendum. If only one option is chosen by MPs, May must pursue that. If two or more are approved, the question would be put to a public referendum. The motion has five Tory MPs supporting but, even if Labour whipped for it, is unlikely to pass. Other cross-party amendments are Anna Soubry’s, to force the government to publish it’s most recent cabinet briefing on no-deal Brexit, and Ken Clarke’s, to hold indicative votes.
Tonight is just a warm-up for the big one though. On February 27, the second Cooper amendment, which is backed by Corbyn and allows for delaying Brexit, will be voted on, and all the Tory Remainers may finally rebel.
And the Guardian reports that ten Labour front-benchers are ready to resign too if Corbyn doesn’t support a second referendum on that day. Some may leave the party altogether to form a breakaway group, according to the FT this morning – although we’ve heard that one before. To their credit, the FT reports they’re considering holding a byelection to prove they can win elections. They may prove the opposite though.
Peoples’ Voters don’t just come from the breakaway-briefing wing of the party though. This morning, seven left-wing Labour MPs will be speaking at Another Europe is Possible’s ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ in Parliament.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.