This was ‘it’? This speech by the PM yesterday, given in a bunker-like venue and not in 10 Downing Street, never mind in her Westminster office and never mind presenting it to the HoC first – this was it?
Anyone who watched it live was rendered speechless and then furious. The MSM top ‘journalists’ who were present asked their fluffy questions as the PM tried to create an impression of false bonhomie and familiarity by calling them each by their first name. Once it was over, fury erupted all over the twitter pages.
If you missed it but want to watch the whole thing, go here. The disbelief and fury of the Tory grassroot comments posted under that video speak for themselves.
The whole text is here. Reading it makes the whole thing even worse. I can only quote Victor Meldrum: “I don’t believe it …!” More on this later.
Firstly, why did the Cabinet to which she presented this yesterday morning actually agree to the text? Or did they? According to a report in the DT it looks they didn’t:
“Eurosceptic Cabinet ministers left the meeting convinced that they had “slapped down” the Prime Minister’s concessions to Labour. However they found themselves surprised to see key elements had survived when Mrs May made her speech in Charing Cross. Mrs May’s only concession appeared to be that the Government would only commit to a vote on a temporary, rather than a permanent, customs union, and would remove the reference to a free vote. The move leaves open the option of whipping the vote rather than allowing MPs and ministers to vote with their consciences.” (paywalled link).
It looks as if the PM deceived even her own cabinet. The DM’s political editors (here, not paywalled) sum up the cabinet meeting, the speech and the reaction:
“Theresa May’s Brexit deal was hanging by a thread last night as furious Tory MPs savaged her decision to open the door to a second referendum. In a dramatic gamble, the Prime Minister offered MPs a binding vote on a second EU poll – if they backed her withdrawal deal at the fourth attempt next month. Mrs May pleaded with Parliament to finally approve her plan so Britain could avoid ‘a nightmare future of permanently polarised politics’. Desperate to win over Labour MPs, she also suggested the agreement could be amended to include a temporary customs union. The move followed a fractious three-hour Cabinet meeting, in which at least two ministers are said to have hinted they might resign in protest at the concessions.” (source)
Given the spineless attitude of the PM’s cabinet I very much doubt that those ministers will miraculously find a semblance of their spines and resign today – but there’s always hope, they may surprise us later today.
Both sides angrily criticised this ‘compromise’, calling that speech a ‘dog’s breakfast’. That shows me that the PM, stubbornly clinging to ‘her’ deal, has got it fundamentally wrong.
Tory MPs are reported to be furious – but as we’ve seen since the abortive no-confidence vote in the 1922 Committee in December, they are generally not precisely blessed with intestinal fortitude or dangling round objects, so it remains to be seen if they act on their fury:
“Theresa May faced calls from her own party to resign “immediately” on Tuesday night after putting a second referendum on the table in a “sellout” attempt to save her Brexit deal. The Prime Minister provoked fury after she caved in to Labour demands for a vote on holding a so-called “confirmatory” ballot, which she hopes will tempt opposition MPs to back the deal. She also announced that Parliament will be given a vote on keeping Britain in a customs union with the EU until the next general election. Tory Eurosceptics described the offer as “outrageous” and more than 50 Conservative MPs said they would vote against it.” (paywalled link)
As this speech indicated, there would be no free vote in the HoC, we’ll have to wait until next month when it will be presented to Parliament to see if those furious Tories will defy her and the whips:
“Boris Johnson said […]: “The Bill is directly against our manifesto and I will not vote for it.” Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary who is seen as the main Eurosceptic challenger to Mr Johnson, said Mrs May’s revised deal would “frustrate rather than deliver Brexit” and vowed to vote against it. […] With the European elections happening on Thursday, Tory MPs said Mrs May had now driven away any lingering Conservative-supporting Leave voters.” (paywalled link)
Not even RemainCentral’s political editors could muster some semblance of enthusiasm in their report:
“The prime minister dangled the prospect of a second referendum and full customs union with the EU until the next election to win cross-party backing for her proposals. However, after she presented the package, the tally of 34 Tory MPs who were holding out against her deal had almost doubled. A bid to woo Labour MPs also appeared to have failed. Brexiteer cabinet ministers were expected last night to urge Mrs May to abandon what they described as a “doomed and irresponsible” last throw of the dice. They want the prime minister to allow her successor to find a way through the impasse.” (link, paywalled)
Impasse? Create a ruinous mess and then leave it to whatever successor to clean it up? The expression ‘poisoned chalice’ has been used, and some have even said that the PM seems keen on destroying the Tory Party altogether.
“Mrs May was said to be determined to press ahead today with a Commons statement outlining the deal. […] Her main offer — to make the ratification of her Brexit deal conditional on a vote on a second referendum in parliament — was squarely aimed at Labour. Jeremy Corbyn gave her plan short shrift, calling it a “rehash of her bad old deal”. (link, paywalled)
Wooing the opposition to no avail – did none of her handlers advise her that this wasn’t going to work? Here are reactions of key Brexiteers:
“Mark Francois, vice-chairman of the Brexit-supporting European Research Group, declared the deal “dead on arrival”. Steve Baker, another senior member of the group, said that Mrs May had engineered a “truly awful situation” with her “muddled implementation of a failed deal”. Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, also withheld support for the proposals, insisting that they retained the “fatal flaws” of the original deal rejected by the Conservatives’ former parliamentary allies.” (link, paywalled)
The inimitable Sir John Redwood puts it in a nutshell in his Diary:
“Not a word or comma of the Treaty has been changed. The PM has long given up on any idea of renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement. As it remains the same Agreement I trust Parliament will give the same answer, and vote it down. I will certainly continue to oppose it. Better still would be to get Mrs May to resign now. If her only policy is an Agreement the public and Parliament have roundly rejected, it is difficult to see the point of her staying in office.”
You can read the reactions of Nigel Farage and other candidates of TBP in the non-paywalled Express – space considerations prevent me from detailing them.
To round up this disastrous speech it’s useful to ponder the motivations of those who were involved in creating it. After all, I hope nobody thinks that the PM wrote it by her own lonesome self:
“The aim, Whitehall sources said, was not to create a definitive Brexit deal, but attract enough MPs to back the deal on the basis that it offered the stability of a process – uncertain though its outcome would be – over the uncertainty and potential chaos that would follow the final failure of Mrs May’s plan.” (paywalled link)
Could anything better show up the arrogance of “Whitehall” (we know who they are …) than this attempt to present something they know won’t work in the hope of dazzling the plebs with polished bovine excrement? More:
Or put another way, said a source with knowledge of Downing Street’s thinking, MPs are being confronted with the question as to whether anything preferable is really coming down the tracks, and if not, whether it is safer to walk the middle path. “Because if they reject the deal on the table then with a Brexiteer likely to take control of the Tory Party Brexit will come down to a ‘death match’ between ‘no deal’ and ‘revoke’,” the source warned.” (paywalled link)
Right there is the threat, out in the open, which she hopes will make the HoC give in: vote for that dog’s breakfast or there’ll be no Brexit, even unto a 2nd Referendum or the revocation of Article 50 altogether.
We’ve predicted that for months: it would come down to ‘My deal or no Brexit’. Why we uninformed plebs have seen this coming and have been saying so while our “Betters” in the HoC were oblivious, that I cannot explain.
Tomorrow we go to the polls. It’s in our hands to show the Remainers, especially those in the Tory Party, that we’re not having any dog’s breakfast!
At the same time we can give the finger to Donald Tusk who has called to support the ChUKs (here) and to Mr Guy Verhofstadt who believes that BoJo, Nigel and Russia will ‘destroy the EU’ (here). No, Guy – you’ve been doing a great destruction job without any help.
So: vote tomorrow – let them not get away with it!