Theresa May is facing another humiliating parliamentary defeat as Tory Brexiteers prepare to abstain on or even vote against a Government motion on the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
The Prime Minister had been expecting Valentine’s Day to pass without incident as the Government tables a neutral motion which notes that “discussions between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland backstop are ongoing” — but faces a Brexiteer revolt over language suggesting the House of Commons “reiterates its support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed by this House on 29 January 2019” — a reference to Tory Remainer Caroline Spelman’s motion to rule a Brexit on clean, No Deal terms.
Downing Street Insists No-Deal Remains a Brexit Option, Despite Claims https://t.co/ddYMxvUeeR
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 13, 2019
“We cannot vote for this as it is currently configured because it rules out No Deal and removes our negotiating leverage in Brussels,” insisted Mark Francois MP, the bombastic Deputy Chairman of the European Reform Group (ERG), which takes in the majority of the Brexiteer bloc on the Tory backbenches.
“The Prime Minister, if she went through the lobbies for this tomorrow night, would be voting against the guarantees she has given in the Commons for months [that No Deal remains on the table]. It is madness.”
“This is clearly not a neutral motion, as it effectively endorses the Spelman amendment – which ruled out No Deal – which is explicitly contrary to the Government’s own policy and which would completely destroy our leverage in the critical negotiations with the EU,” a senior ERG member told BrexitCentral.
Hear ERG told Chief Whip this afternoon they wouldn't back govt tmrw unless motion changed, govt refused – Brexiteer group haven't decided yet if they will abstain or vote against but they won't back govt – either way, another reminder May just can't rely on her backbenches
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) February 13, 2019
“If they supported this motion on Thursday, the Government would effectively be voting against their own expressed policy, as repeated in the House, including by the Prime Minister, on numerous occasions,” the source added.
“This is utterly chaotic, bordering on farce. We told the Government very clearly last night that we will not support this motion and in fact we urged them, indeed pleaded with them at senior level, to withdraw it yesterday – but they took absolutely no notice. Frankly, we despair.”
As things stand, the motion would not be legally binding, but former Brexit minister Steve Baker MP, another influential ERG member, is concerned that “Conservative MPs really ought not to be associated with anything, express or implied, which seems to take no deal off the table.”
1/3 Ok: let's send the right signals. (But is the EU really hanging on a non-binding motion at 5pm on a Thursday afternoon?)
Conservative MPs really ought not to be associated with anything, express or implied, which seems to take no deal off the table. https://t.co/9uGEEQe8MC
— Steve Baker MP (@SteveBakerHW) February 14, 2019