How many of them will vote for the government’s Brexit deal?by Alex Dean / November 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
The coming weeks will be some of the most consequential in British political history. There is no guarantee whatsoever that the government will strike a Brexit deal with the EU, but if it does then it must present the text to parliament. The arithmetic is impossibly tight, and if MPs vote it down then no-deal is a real possibility.
It is against this alarming backdrop that attention has turned to a particular group of Labour MPs, who could yet determine the fate of whatever the government brings back. It may be that No 10 needs them numerically. When I asked Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the Commons, whether they would be reliant upon Labour votes, she said: “the reality is we have a hung parliament.” That’s a yes, then.
The deal could need rescuing. But clearly Labour MPs are not in the habit of supporting the government. Could some of them really be persuaded to back the deal? Enough to help the government over the line? And what would be their motivation for propping up the Tories? I have spoken to several of them in recent days to gauge the mood, and the sense is that there are enough to see the government home. The decision could be the most important of these MPs’ careers, throwing not just Labour but all British politics into convulsions.
Of course, from the government’s perspective, it was not meant to be like this. The issue has arisen because No 10 cannot depend upon its own backbenchers: hard Leavers and Remainers in the Tory Party have long threatened rebellion (see Jo Johnson’s resignation) while the DUP’s assent is very far from guaranteed.
The Labour leadership, for its part, will whip MPs to vote down the deal in the hope that chaos will precipitate a general election. Add it all together and No 10 is facing defeat on the biggest issue of our time. Keir Starmer, the Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary, has said: “I don’t think it’s going to meet our tests, and we shouldn’t be voting for a deal that we don’t think is in the national interest.” A substantial majority of Labour MPs will vote accordingly.
But not all of them will. There is a handful of potential Labour rebels spread across two different camps. Their influence could prove decisive. But which MPs sit in…