As May faces a Tory re­volt and wrath of vot­ers, will it all end in rev­er­sal of Brexit?

Irish Daily Mail - - Dermot Ahern -

BAR­RING a to­tal turn­around not seen in Bri­tish pol­i­tics for many a year, it seems as if Theresa May will fail in her stel­lar ef­forts to get the Bri­tish House of Com­mons to ap­prove the Brexit deal ham­mered out be­tween her gov­ern­ment and the EU.

If there was any doubt about this, it was com­pletely dis­pelled af­ter the hu­mil­i­at­ing par­lia­men­tary de­feats sus­tained by the prime minister on Tues­day.

A com­bi­na­tion of MPs found her gov­ern­ment to be in con­tempt of par­lia­ment for not pub­lish­ing the le­gal ad­vice given to her cab­i­net by the at­tor­ney gen­eral Geoffrey Cox.

This meant an ex­tremely em­bar­rass­ing U-turn was nec­es­sary whereby the gov­ern­ment then had to pub­lish the AG’s ad­vice.

While Mr Cox’s doc­u­ment merely stated the ob­vi­ous – that the border back­stop had to re­main in place ‘un­less and un­til’ an EU/UK deal was reached – his stark words al­lowed some of the hard Brex­i­teers, not least the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, to make ‘I told you so’ speeches.

One didn’t have to be blessed with a le­gal mind to un­der­stand the ob­vi­ous, once the deal was reached. The back­stop guar­an­tee was there to stay, un­less some­thing bet­ter, from the EU’s and Ire­land’s point of view, was put in its place.

Even more telling was the com­ing to­gether of pro-Re­main Tories with the op­po­si­tion par­ties to win an amend­ment that would give MPs a say in what May does if her deal is re­jected next week.

In­deed, it is now be­ing sug­gested that May’s gov­ern­ment may not put for­ward the deal for a vote as ex­pected next Tues­day, and will try to play for more time, pos­si­bly over Christ­mas.

While this amend­ment may have pleased some in Dublin, in that May’s gov­ern­ment could be forced to re­ject a no-deal Brexit, it again ex­em­pli­fies the ever-in­creas­ing weak­ness of the Tory gov­ern­ment. I TS au­thor­ity is be­ing whit­tled away, bit by bit. For­mer Con­ser­va­tive at­tor­ney gen­eral Do­minic Grieve stated that this amend­ment will al­low MPs to ‘take back control’ of the Brexit process.

As al­ways in nor­mal par­lia­men­tary pol­i­tics, an in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment can­not con­tinue in power if it is con­stantly be­ing de­feated.

While many in­de­pen­dent ob­servers marvel at the tenac­ity and dogged­ness of Theresa May, more and more, she is get­ting closer to a time when she will have to ac­cept the in­evitable.

Some are suggest­ing that a de­feat on the cur­rent deal is not ter­mi­nal for her gov­ern­ment, in that it will al­low her to go back to the EU look­ing for more con­ces­sions.

Per­son­ally, I can­not see EU mem­ber states re­vis­it­ing the deal in any mean­ing­ful way so as to help May’s gov­ern­ment. And all of these par­lia­men­tary de­feats are caus­ing the value of ster­ling to slide, some­thing which will prob­a­bly con­tinue as long as un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing the fu­ture re­mains.

On the other hand, some fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts are suggest­ing that these con­stant de­feats of May’s gov­ern­ment may ac­tu­ally bring about a rev­er­sal of Brexit.

The think­ing on this seems to have come from the opin­ion that will be de­liv­ered by the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice on Mon­day, which is ex­pected to sug­gest that the UK could uni­lat­er­ally re­voke its Brexit re­quest, if it wanted to.

This is af­ter a se­nior le­gal ad­viser to the court, ad­vo­cate gen­eral Cam­pos Sánchez-Bor­dona, said, on Tues­day, that Lon­don could re­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 it wanted to, but hop­ing this will hap­pen may very well be wish­ful think­ing.

The Bri­tish elec­torate now seems to be get­ting more and more fed up with the en­tire Brexit co­nun­drum.

The longer the im­passe con­tin­ues, the more likely the av­er­age voter will take it out on those they see as be­ing pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble, namely the Tories.

Sug­ges­tions that the UK could ask for a fur­ther ex­ten­sion, de­lay­ing Brexit un­til af­ter March 28 next, can only send more MPs into the hard exit camp, in that this will merely ex­tend the UK’s ‘one foot in, and one foot out’ of the EU.

May’s op­po­nents would be able to cor­rectly say that this would be the worst of all worlds, a truly ‘vas­sal state’. They would end up con­tin­u­ing to be sub­ject to EU rules, with­out hav­ing any say in their fram­ing.

Also, they would have to pay money into the EU bud­get.

So, any ex­ten­sion of the dead­line will prob­a­bly make the ul­ti­mate part­ing even more dif­fi­cult.

If May is de­feated next week, it is, in my view, yet again, an­other po­lit­i­cal nail in her gov­ern­ment’s cof­fin.

The par­lia­men­tary arith­metic in West­min­ster is now so di­vided that, maybe, the best thing that could hap­pen would be for a gen­eral elec­tion to be called, in or­der to re­lieve the po­lit­i­cal ‘pres­sure cooker’ in cur­rent Bri­tish pol­i­tics.

Af­ter the dusts set­tles, in a post-elec­tion sit­u­a­tion, sounder minds may pre­vail in pol­i­tics. A new gov­ern­ment, pos­si­bly led by Labour, may have more lee­way in nu­anc­ing the Brexit co­nun­drum.

Of course, that would mean that Labour would have to ‘get its act to­gether’.

While the Tories may have been ‘all over the place’ in the last few years, Labour, un­der Jeremy Cor­byn, has been pretty rud­der­less too.

In­stead of hav­ing a solid po­si­tion on Brexit, it has tended to use the dif­fi­cul­ties that May’s gov­ern­ment finds it­self in to score points for po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage.

In­deed, if a Labour gov­ern­ment were to take over, it would also have to ‘eat its words’ and re­verse pre­vi­ous Brexit po­si­tions. But, as his­tory shows, that’s rarely a prob­lem for politi­cians.

A House di­vided: DUP’s Nigel Dodds, prime minister Theresa May and Bri­tish Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn all face crunch vote on Tues­day

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