In this post I’ll continue to give you a day-by-day account of a week, which is not yet finished. A deeper analysis will come in another post – probably next year! Anyway, Lenin’s quote should now read: There are decades when nothing happens and hours when decades happen.” As things really did change hour by hour especially on:
From early morning to 12.30pm the vote on the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday was going ahead. Over and over we heard ministers saying that this crucial vote would happen. We heard the words ‘yes it definitely is on’, ad infinitum. Then at 12.30pm the vote was ‘pulled’. Mrs May went to the House to defend this and was there for 5 hours (?!) fielding difficult questions from every side – no-one defended her.
Today she flew around Europe – literally. First the Dutch premier, then the German Chancellor, then Brussels. Not much comfort from the EU. Here’s the thing: the stance from the EU is that This. Is. It. The ‘agreement’ took 2 years to negotiate and there is no chance of a re-negotiation especially around the backstop.
I think it important for me to emphasise what many other journalists and pundits are saying, that the EU will not allow one of its own, Ireland, to suffer any damage, therefore the ‘backstop’, which is in place to prevent any infrastructure on the border, will happen. This, as I said in an earlier post, is that if after any future trade talks with the EU (by 2020) the hard border is inevitable (because the technological infrastructure is still pie in the sky) the whole of the UK will remain in the Customs Union. And although there will be ‘mechanisms’ to discuss when the UK can leave this arrangement if all parties do not want the UK to leave said Customs Union, in international law, we cannot leave. And note whilst in the Customs Union we cannot make any trade deals elsewhere. And that, the EU says, will not change – although they can clarify.
Back home instead of the ‘meaningful vote’ there is an Emergency Debate, and there is much pressure on Jeremy to put forward a vote of no-confidence in the government – but no moves from him – no change there then. But, on the other hand, this ‘no-confidence in the government’ vote (and different to the one below) would actually never be won, as the Tories will never vote for their party to fall – end of. Later that evening rumours began to filter through social media that a no-confidence vote against Theresa May was acoming with some big cheese (actually the Chairman of the 1922 committee) seeing Mrs May after PMQs tomorrow.
7.40am Events move even faster as the big cheese phoned Mrs May the previous night and told her that the threshold of 48 letters of no-confidence in her leadership has been reached. After Mrs May speaks to the 1922 Committee Tory MPs will vote (between 6-8pm) on whether she continues or not as their leader. There needs to be over 158 for her to step down. She would then step aside for the leadership vote (she herself cannot stand) and it might take until mid-January for a new leader to emerge. This length of time (to get a new leader) might actually save her. Not therefore absolutely clear that she might lose.
8.20 am Sir Graham confirms – Mrs May will speak to the 1922 committee and then immediately after there will be a vote.
8.24 BBC pundit says this is a huge day! Mrs May will fight, he continued, because of the timing – and she will get support from many Tory MPs.
She was due to be in Ireland this a.m. and that won’t happen now. There have been mutterings about Ireland, which I think disgraceful.
8.48-8.52 Statement from Mrs May – yes, she came out fighting but sounded absolutely deluded when she spoke about working towards uniting us all in one nation delivering important services – WHAT! At least George Osborne was honest in that we are all going to have to go through austerity and tough! Mrs May actually lies about austerity – but enough about that. She’s right about the timing of this no-confidence vote – if she lost it’ll be very tight to do anything other than crash-out of the EU.
A BBC pundit says there are 3 things in Mrs May’s favour: i) the potential protracted time-consuming contest if she lost ii)the undermining of anyone’s ability to negotiate with EU if she lost (as in who else would negotiate after her defeat?), iii) and to defeat her will take 158 +votes and will that happen?
PMQs were scheduled as per usual, and were the usual. As in, it was the usual noisy incomprehensible (to normal people) bear-pit. Much talk on various media that Mrs May will survive this.
9.0pm(ish ) And she did, at 200 votes for her to continue as leader against 117
The consequences of the last few days
The short answer is that the shitstorm is, indeed, delayed, the long answer is nothing has changed. What has not changed is the 40-year war in the Tory party around Europe. It is a bitterly divided party. Mrs May won only because i) she promised not to lead the Tories into the next General Election (she’s a bad campaigner) and ii) the majority of Tory MPs realised what little time there was before we leave on 29thMarch and didn’t want a protracted and angry fight for a new leader.
Meanwhile the toxic Brexiteers in the ERG (that’s European not-much Research Group) were exceedingly stupid, in that yes, they would have liked one of their own to be voted in as leader, but their maths really let them down, as not only did the 48 letters of no-confidence trickle in at a very slow speed they also failed to check if the number of anti-May MPs reached over 158 – erm, no, they did not get that number. Their ring-leader, Rees-Mogg, is now huffing and puffing his way around the radio stations and other media outlets demanding that Mrs May resign as, in his words, she really hasn’t got the confidence of her party. You lost mate – get over it!
However, Mrs May is still very much in the soup. She has been sent off to Europe and over the next two days has been tasked to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement and especially the ‘backstop’. She will see several different leaders but has already said she does not expect any breakthrough. Look, renegotiation will not work (see above).
And what about the Labour Party, our official opposition? They still talk about renegotiating but this time it’s about being in the Single Market – that won’t work either.
So, what happens now?
Jeremy Corbyn has demanded an immediate vote on the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands – that won’t happen. Any vote on this Agreement will come after Christmas and at the latest by 21stJanuary. But what happens if there is a major defeat at this point is again very uncertain, so people are right to criticise Mrs May for pulling the vote on Tuesday because she has just prolonged the uncertainty.
Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition, could call a vote of no-confidence in the government, which if won would lead to a General Election – that won’t happen either. Corbyn also hasn’t got the numbers (and he knows it) as the Tories are not going to vote for their own demise.
There is a slight possibility that there might be a 2ndReferendum, again possibly after the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. But I’m not convinced as there is very little time to organise this.
The date for our leaving might be delayed – that’s possible and then we could have a 2ndReferendum. But it won’t happen on Mrs May’s watch unless (see above) she is heavily defeated in the January vote
We could revoke Article 50 – I wish but again, it won’t happen while Mrs May leads us ever onwards – unless ditto above.
So, actually, the shitstorm is only delayed and we are a very small island in a turmoil of our own making. This is such an act of self-harm! I could go on but won’t!
Penny Kocher 13thDecember 2018