The momentum is moving too slowly—but it is movingby Jonathan Lis / April 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
Shall we start with the good news or the bad news? The bad news is that the country is on its knees, our political system is collapsing in real time, and the prime minister has once again laid a trap to take us out of the EU with no deal on 22nd May. The good news is that we are closer to a second referendum than we have ever been.
Let us first deal with the numbers. In the last week—which admittedly appears to have lasted several years—MPs have twice engaged in indicative votes to determine different Brexit outcomes, and also, for the third time, defeated Theresa May’s withdrawal deal. In the first round of votes last Wednesday, a customs union came closest to securing a majority, but Margaret Beckett’s amendment for a confirmatory referendum won the most votes, with 268. In the second round, this Monday, the pattern was repeated, but a referendum had now won 280 votes. Admittedly, May’s deal won 286 votes on Friday, but was defeated by a majority of 58. The indicative vote for a referendum on Monday was defeated by a majority of just 12. Cabinet ministers were ordered not to participate.
It is true that the momentum is moving too slowly—but it is moving. Between the first and second round, seven more Tories came on board for a referendum (making 15 when added to the original eight), as did five more Labour MPs (making 203 in total). In contrast, May’s deal seemed to have reached its peak on Friday. The DUP did not budge for her. Neither, in the main, did Labour MPs. Several hardline Leavers from the ERG switched over to support her, but some of those are now in fact reverting to oppose the deal. We are now just seven days from the emergency EU summit which determines the length of any Article 50 extension, if indeed we can extend it at all. Conservatives in the cabinet are beginning to discuss the inevitability of putting a vote to the people in order to deliver May’s deal. Something has to give.
Last night May did, in the end, give something: a trap for no-deal and rope for the Labour Party to hang itself. In her televised statement following an unimaginable seven-hour cabinet meeting, the prime minister first declared that she would seek…