Daily Express - - Inside Politics -

THERESA MAY’S jour­ney to the soul­less EU quar­ter of Brus­sels next week is likely to be her most mis­er­able yet. On course for a shat­ter­ing de­feat over her Brexit deal on Tues­day night, the Prime Minister is widely ex­pected to be re­signed to beg­ging on ar­rival at the sched­uled EU sum­mit less than 48 hours later.

Tory MPs spec­u­lat­ing about the pos­si­ble af­ter­math of the so-called Com­mons “mean­ing­ful vote” on her deal reckon the most likely sce­nario is that Mrs May will plead with her Euro­pean coun­ter­parts to of­fer the con­ces­sions needed to break the dead­lock at West­min­ster. A dec­la­ra­tion that guar­an­tees Bri­tain a way out of the hated “back­stop” mech­a­nism will be top of her wish list.

Euroscep­tic Tories are braced for the EU to con­cede some ground to help out be­lea­guered Mrs May given how suc­cess­ful the bloc has been in ev­ery round of the ne­go­ti­a­tions. “They must be able to give her some­thing on the back­stop that might give her hope of win­ning a sec­ond vote,” said one Brex­i­teer Tory source. Lead­ers of the 27 mem­ber states stay­ing put in the EU af­ter Brexit will de­spair that the UK’s de­par­ture re­mains un­re­solved. Many have far too many do­mes­tic tra­vails of their own to want to re­turn to the de­tails of a row about the fu­ture of North­ern Ire­land’s border. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has seen his au­thor­ity dev­as­tated by the violent re­sponse to his green taxes on fuel, while Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel is pre­oc­cu­pied with the con­test in her own CDU party to choose her suc­ces­sor. Even more ur­gently, the bloc is fac­ing a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic cri­sis in Italy that threat­ens to dwarf the Greek bailout saga.

EU lead­ers will be caught be­tween the de­sire of some to do any­thing to get Brexit off the agenda and oth­ers still want­ing to make an ex­am­ple of the UK for leav­ing, in or­der to dis­cour­age oth­ers from do­ing so. While the 27 have stuck to­gether through­out the ne­go­ti­a­tions so far, Brexit fa­tigue and the yearn­ing to get on with other is­sues will stretch their unity to break­ing point.

JOHN HOW­ELL has told MPs of a way of cop­ing with the topic grip­ping West­min­ster: “I was at a naval din­ner last night where, if any­one men­tioned Brexit, they had to drink a large mea­sure of rum.”

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