Jacob Rees-Mogg and colleagues risk being left with little chance to prevent a soft Brexitby Asa Bennett / December 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Scores of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs are part of the European Research Group. So when Theresa May’s sealing of the Brexit deal last month prompted its chairman, Jacob Rees-Mogg, to dramatically announce that he no longer had confidence in her leadership, it seemed like his fellow Brexiteers would join him in his charge.
It quickly became apparent that Rees-Mogg’s move had not been so well co-ordinated. The group ended up floundering quickly as the excitable predictions doing the rounds among Tory MPs about how soon a no confidence vote would be triggered failed to materialise.
Days later, Rees-Mogg struggled to deny the charge that the ERG had been a bit “Dad’s Army” in its manoeuvres, and has spent the last few weeks studiously refusing to speculate on the numbers of malcontent MPs.
Meanwhile, recriminations started to bubble between Brexiteer members of the group. Rees-Mogg’s right-hand man Steve Baker suggested some MPs had lied to him, lamenting that evidently not everyone who had promised to write had done so. The suggestion did the rounds that a list of names would be published, making clear who had made such pledges in order to scare them to stick to their word.
This week, however, it seemed the group might end the ridicule when Sir Graham Brady confirmed that enough letters had been received for a confidence vote. Talk was rife about the ERG’s operations being managed from a room dubbed “the killing zone” by Brexiteer MPs.
It was rumoured that they even expected cabinet members to take advantage of the secret ballot and privately vote to remove Mrs May.
“He has his thumb on the scale”
However, the complaints came in from Brexiteers before voting had even started, with Sir Graham accused of helping Mrs May unfairly by holding the vote at the end of the day it had been announced—much sooner than they had planned. “It is an absolute outrage. He has his thumb on the scale,” one MP said.
One could well suggest that, given they had been itching for weeks to remove Mrs May, it is hard for her critics to suggest they were caught on the hop. Needless to say, their blaming the referee meant it was no surprise…