You may have noticed that I’ve changed the title of this column. Brexit is being betrayed by all the players: Brussels, 10 Downing Street, the House of Commons, Whitehall – and so say all of us.
If you’ve waded past the ubiquitous ‘Oscar’ reports (so important!) you’ll notice that vested interests are feeding unconfirmed titbits to the MSM to make our pulses race or to make us howl with despair, depending on which paper you look at. This game of ‘politicking by leaks’ is aimed to drive Ms May into the corner of the Remainers’ choice: an extension of Article 50. Ms May and Mr Corbyn are like wounded sea critters, bleeding into the ocean, and their Party sharks – Ms Rudd (T) and Ms Cooper (L) and their helpers – have smelled blood. There will be a delay, and this is how they plan to do it.
Firstly – that ‘delay’. It’s important to check the time an article was published. because earlier ones have Ms May being ‘very clear’ that there won’t be ‘a delay’, that ‘progress has been made’ but it’s not yet sufficient and that Ministers and MPs should ‘hold their nerves’ and let her get on with it. Therefore, that ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament will now take place on March 12th, see e.g. here and here, and paywalled here and here. So: no Brexit delay but meaningful-vote-delay. I hope that’s now ‘very clear’ …!
Yes, dear friends – you’re correct when you think this is not about Brexit but about power politics inside the Tory Party. That’s why sharks, ahem, ‘sources’ inside 10 Downing Street have leaked ‘option papers’ to the MSM. That leakage allows us to see how they are going to get the Brexit delay:
“Downing Street officials have drawn up a series of options in a bid to avoid resignations by ministers determined to support a backbench bid to take no deal off the table this week.[…] The Telegraph understands that the plans drawn up by Downing Street officials, which were circulated at the weekend, include making a formal request to Brussels to delay Brexit if she cannot secure a deal by then. (paywalled here, my bold)
Here’s an interesting interpretation (same link):
“She said that leaving by March 29 is “still within our grasp”, a far more downbeat assessment than her previous insistence that Britain will leave the EU on Brexit day. While the Downing Street plans do not specify the length of the extension, ministers believe it will be no longer than two months – avoiding the need for the UK to participate in European parliament elections.” (my bold)
Well, those Leakers of Downing Street were obviously unaware of what went on in Egypt, where we got this interesting information from – do remember that ‘our lot’ regularly disregard the player opposite: not Labour but Brussels:
“Yesterday (Feb 24th) Mrs May met with president of the European Commission Donald Tusk, who is said to favour an extension of Article 50 by two years as opposed to two months.” (here, my bold).
Two months, two years – who cares! It’s no longer about Brexit – it’s about staying in power – and staying in the the EU:
“On Wednesday the Commons will vote on a backbench bill tabled by Yvette Cooper, a senior Labour MP, that would force Mrs May to request an extension of Article 50 if a deal has not been reached by March 13. The Prime Minister could avert a rebellion by Tory MPs and a Commons defeat by committing to requesting a Brexit delay herself, although in doing so risks alienating Eurosceptic Tory MPs. […] The Telegraph can also disclose that a group of moderate Tory MPs will today table a new amendment that requires the Prime Minister to extend Article 50 if she cannot secure a deal. The amendment put forward by Simon Hart, the leader of the 100-strong Brexit Delivery Group, states that the extension of Article 50 must not go beyond May 23rd.” (paywalled link, my bold)
Oh the dear innocents that are our MPs! They don’t even notice that they’ve presented Brussels with a perfect way of keeping us in. It’s their secret why such extension would change anything at all, given that our Remain Mandarins have been unable to achieve anything except Remain during the last years of negotiations …
Here’s how one political commentator interprets this new play:
“Some suspect that the prime minister has become privately keen that the Cooper amendment is passed on Wednesday so that MPs in the hard Brexit faction ERG face a choice between her deal or a delayed Brexit (and very possibly no Brexit at all). The choice of March 12, the day before the deadline for a Commons vote under the terms of the Cooper-Letwin bill, certainly gives force to that theory.” (paywalled link)
But wait – the Backstop is still ‘in the game’, it’s just that our Remainers don’t want us to know much about it:
“The Downing Street plans, which were drawn up at the end of last week, included three central options – a meaningful vote on the Prime Minister’s deal, a “conditional” vote on the Attorney General’s legal advice and a commitment to request an extension of Article 50. After Mrs May announced a delay to the meaningful vote, two options remain. Ministers believe a conditional vote on the Attorney General’s plans for a new legal text to ensure that the Irish backstop is strictly time-limited could help strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in Brussels.” (paywalled link, my bold)
It’s a bit like preparing the stage set for the Grand Magician Theresa to pull rabbits out of her hat – while the aforementioned Remain commentator blames Brexiteers for this car crash:
“The plan was to have a second meaningful vote this week […] That schedule was torn up, like so many, as hardline Brexiteers delivered a Commons defeat the EU said proved that concessions on the Irish backstop were futile. What slim chance she had of winning ground from Ireland and the rest of the EU on limits to the guarantee to avoid a hard border in time to win a February vote evaporated. (paywalled link, my bold).
So there you have it: an extension to article 50, perhaps for up to two years is the fault of those Tory Brexiteers because they blocked Ms May’s, ahem, Olly Robbins, Whitehall’s and the EU’s plans to keep us in forever through the Backstop. MPs opposing the PM? A concept totally alien to the EU!
There’s no Cromwell or a Guy Fawkes on the horizon, so it’s up to us.
Be relentless! Write not just to your constituency MPs but to your constituency Party chairmen, write to your local papers, to the national papers. They may not publish, but the volume of letters counts.
We have until March 12th to tell them that we won’t let them betray Brexit.