Brexit diehards may soon discover May’s deal is only option

After last month’s European Council meeting in Brussels, some EU leaders and senior officials complained that Theresa May was asking them to resolve her domestic political difficulties. Some, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, were more willing to help than others, such as Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and European Council president Donald Tusk.

All agreed, however, that there was little purpose in delivering one concession after another without any evidence that they would be sufficient to win a Commons majority for a Brexit deal. The political convulsion at Westminster, they concluded, must be resolved at Westminster before further EU assurances about the backstop could be effective.

That convulsion began to play out this week in remarkable scenes on the floor of the House of Commons, culminating in Wednesday’s vote to allow MPs to take control of the Brexit process if May’s deal is rejected next week.

After months during which the fronts on both sides of the Commons chamber seemed frozen, traditionally loyal Conservative MPs voted against the government to block a no-deal Brexit. And some Labour MPs suggested that they could support the prime minister’s deal if it is modified to allow for a permanent customs union with the EU and includes guarantees on labour and environmental standards.

Until now May has sought to win a majority for her Brexit deal drawn almost exclusively from Conservative and DUP MPs. Last month she concluded that the DUP’s support was the key to unlocking the votes of Conservative Brexiteers.


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