The UK is entering a period of great uncertainty and constitutional, legal and political upheaval. The big immediate question is what will come out of the House of Commons debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal (which is actually one very detailed withdrawal deal and one set of vague aspirations for the future in the accompanying “political declaration”). What might happen? To work that out you need to crunch some numbers.
A Venn diagram of the contending Brexit tribes in the Commons looks something like this:
The numbers are very much guestimates and in any case are probably fairly fluid. Who votes for what will partly depend on the order and exact terms of amendments that will eventually be voted on.
The Labour Party will of course whip its MPs to vote against May’s deal. But the deal also appears to have very little support amongst Tory MPs outside of the payroll vote of ministers and their parliamentary bag carriers, and even some of them are wavering.
The hardline Brexiteers, mostly organised into the inappropriately named European Research Group (ERG), want a much harder Brexit. But, as the recent ill-fated coup attempt against May showed, how far they are prepared to really go is questionable. Only about two dozen of their about 80 MPs put in letters to the 1922 Chair, Graham Brady. This probably reflects—more or less—the number who are really prepared to press for a complete no deal, car crash Brexit.
Some hard Brexiters, like Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom form what might be called the “Brexit First” group. They think the priority is getting out of the EU and everything else is secondary and can be dealt with later.
On the more Brexit-moderate wing of the Tory parliamentary party there are probably a similar or slightly higher number who want a softer Brexit or no Brexit at all. They mostly reject May’s deal because it is too hard and, on the future relationship, open to an even harder Brexit down the road. Some might have been tempted by it simply to stop a no deal happening, but now that appears to be off the table (since yesterday’s procedural defeats for the government) that temptation has probably gone away.
The number of Tory MPs…