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What Can We Expect When the Withdrawal Bill Heads Back to the House of Commons?

Expect no meaningful defeats or leadership challenges for May on Wednesday morning...

Jacob F. Farr

Naked Politics Blogger

These are tumultuous times for Theresa with cabinet ministers breaking ranks and undermining all of her attempts to bridge the Brexit divide within her party. Some of those close to Boris Johnson have stated that it may prove necessary to replace the Maybot as time progresses and defeats inflicted this week. With many fancying a more bombastic and charismatic leader in the form of Gove or Johnson if significant damage is done on Tuesday.

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It is no secret that May has sided more so with the European Research Group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg than she has her more sceptical remain party members such as Nicky Morgan or Ken Clarke; the votes this week will only reinforce this notion of loyalty to those who are most likely to destroy her. The reality is however that her leadership is unlikely to fall in the event of a defeat on Tuesday in the House of Commons as most of the amendments tabled by the Lords are pretty tame.

The Independent a few days ago tackled the amendments and identified three meaningful votes that could damage the Prime Minister.

1. The amendment demanding that we become part of the EEA upon exit of the EU.

This is very unlikely to succeed. Corbyn does not back the move due to its inability to tackle freedom of movement and to secure a frictionless border with Northern Ireland and the Republic. Support from the likes of Ed Miliband and Caroline Flint who believe Brexit must mean addressing freedom of movement means that Corbyn as well as May should be pretty safe here.

2. A customs union (of some sort)

 Conservatives are unlikely to rebel here although there certainly is appetite from remain MP’s. The amendment if passed would require May to inform parliament on what her efforts were in attempting to secure a customs union, to which John Rentoul states May could easily say “I haven’t made any”, and that would suffice. A defeat could however force the government’s hand later on in negotiations as an appetite for a customs union will have been established.

3. If defeated then parliament must be given a meaningful vote on the final brexit deal agreed with Brussels

This would mean a severely weakening of the hand for negotiators as any final deal would have to take into account the likelihood of it being accepted by the House of Commons. If this vote goes through then expect a chorus of dissatisfaction coming from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

That is not to say that any meaningful challenge to May’s authority would follow. The first two votes mentioned would not really challenge her premiership although arguably the vote on the customs union could be catastrophic later down the line. The third vote is the most constraining. Mogg and his band of Brexiteers believe that they know what Brexit means and it means ‘Brexit’. Any outside interference in their blueprint is considered unpatriotic and perhaps cretinous as Mogg has so often lambasted at previous avenues of thought.

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A joint letter penned on Sunday by Amber Rudd a prominent remainer, and Iain Duncan Smith a prominent brexiter called for calm as well as unity after May and her whips had addressed Tory MP’s in a plea for loyalty. It appears to have worked. A number of Conservatives are still  put off by the thought of challenging May due to the toxic nature of Johnson and the incompetence as well as unpopularity of Gove who would most likely be her successor.

After all if the meaningful vote amendment goes through there is very little that any new leader could do and offering Corbyn a possible ‘in’ is non-desirable for all Conservatives involved. The Prime Minister can rest easy, expect no meaningful defeats or leadership challenges for May on Wednesday morning.

 

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