The Commons arithmetic could prove insurmountableby Peter Kellner / November 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
Will the House of Commons vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal? Let’s go figure.
There are 650 MPs. Sinn Fein’s seven members have not taken their seats; and four, including the Speaker, are elected House of Commons officials who never vote. That leaves 639 voting MPs: 316 Conservatives, together with ten Democratic Unionists make a pro-government total of 326, compared with 313 opposition MPs.
At the moment, the figures on Brexit look bad for the government. They risk losing the support of the DUP, and some Conservative MPs with strong views on both sides: Brexiteers who think the prime minister has agreed terms that turn the UK into a “vassal state”—and also Remainers, such as their newest recruit, Jo Johnson, who think that the deal would leave the UK far worse off than if we remained in the European Union. Against this, some Labour MPs might defy their party whip and support the deal.
Let’s put some numbers to this.
If every MP takes part in the vote, and including tellers (two on each side whose votes are not included in the numbers announced after each vote), the winning post is 320.
The Conservatives start with 316. At the time of writing, the DUP will not provide the extra votes they need. Worse, Theresa May could lose 30 or more members of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group and, possibly, ten Remainers such as former ministers Jo Johnson, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve. That could reduce the pro-deal total to 276.
Some Labour MPs will lift that number higher: but how many? Kate Hoey, one of the most outspoken Labour supporters of Brexit now says she might oppose the government, on much the same grounds as the DUP. (Hoey herself has Ulster protestant roots.) At present, the number of pro-deal Labour MPs is likely to be nearer five than ten.
All in all, the current arithmetic points to a heavy government defeat, with no more than 285 MPs supporting the Brexit deal and at least 354 opposing it. In practice, there will be a handful of abstentions and absences; but a majority of 70-plus is plainly on the cards.
Could the government turn this round?
Winning round the DUP would be a start. The party has always been led by tough-talking deal-makers. They will demand…