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Wolves of Westminster

UK Political News and Opinion

May’s game of brinkmanship – Jimmy Coles

3 min read
17 December 2018 | ANALYSIS

Another Monday, and yet another statement in the House of Commons from the Prime Minister, in what is becoming an all too common occurrence in recent weeks. 

Theresa May returned from Brussels with what she argued were concessions on her Withdrawal Agreement. In a bid to win over her critics, Mrs May claimed that the backstop agreement was not a favourable solution to the European Union, and that she had been reassured that it was therefore unlikely to ever come into force. 

The statement from the PM was followed by another barrage of criticism from MPs, the majority of whom argued that the deal was dead and that new solutions needed to be found to break the Brexit impasse. Despite their insistence, Mrs May remains resolute. 

She says that the “Meaningful Vote” will now take place the week commencing the 14th January.  Yet, that was not enough to satisfy MPs of all political stripes and from both the remain and leave camps – who want to have a say on a deal before the house rises on Thursday. Theresa May claimed defiantly that she also wanted parliament to have a say on her deal, but screams of “when” from members clearly indicated that her January date is not satisfactory. 

The Prime Minister is undoubtedly trying to play the long game – or “brinkmanship” as SNP Common’s Leader Ian Blackford called it. Her tactics are clear, hold off for as long as possible on the vote, and inform leave supporting MPs that if they do not back the deal then they get no Brexit, but telling the remain camp that failure to back the deal will result in a no deal Brexit. She hopes that by running down the clock she will force her deal through Parliament when her colleagues are faced with the prospect of no deal.  

It is a risky move from a Prime Minister who has only recently survived a confidence vote from members of her own party, and whose position is increasingly unstable. The Labour Party moved this evening to table a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister, in the hope that it will force her to bring forward the date of the vote. 

Number 10 have said they will not allocate any time for Labour’s no confidence motion in the Prime Minister, labelling it “silly little games”. All the indications suggest that Labour will now escalate this, and table a motion of no confidence in the Government. This would mean time would have to be allowed for debate under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. The Prime Minister will be further dismayed, as since that motion was tabled, a cross-party coalition of the SNP, the Lib Dems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru have tabled an amendment calling for a no confidence vote in the Government. 

It’s evident that this will be another busy and demanding week for the Prime Minister. Mrs May will be somewhat more confident after Eurosceptics from her own party and the DUP have pledged to vote against the a no confidence motion. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that Parliament are not willing to let the government kick the can down the road, and the threat of a second referendum continues to loom over Theresa May.

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