Tuesday 10 July 2018

The EU will decide Britain's fate and Theresa May will not be forced to quit

“If you want to succeed in politics,” Lloyd George is said to have observed, “you must keep your conscience well under control."

David Davis should have resigned on Friday after the twelve hour cabinet meeting decided in favour of a soft Brexit. Still he did resign, after thinking about it all weekend, and his decision deserves respect. 

He does not want to bring down Theresa May. He could have brought her down in the twenty-four hours after the election result last year but chose not to, out of loyalty and because he had advised her to call an election. Though he did not advise her to campaign for seven weeks in a dispiritingly robotic and mindless way, repeating over and over the meaningless mantra 'Strong and stable' as her advisers had instructed her to do.

His delay means Boris Johnson's resignation is not about principle but about maintaining his position as leader of the Brexiteers, or rather of those backbench Brexiteers that do not agree with Michael Gove that what the cabinet decided on is the best we can get.

Boris Johnson's problem is that after being very rude about the proposals in the meeting he then surprised colleagues by pledging to back it with enthusiasm. One cabinet minister said:

“He was actually very big about it and by dinner spoke passionately in favour of making it work.”
Brexiteer backbench MPs considered both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as traitors. One said,
“Boris’s stock has gone down. A lot of MPs are unimpressed that he didn’t push her to the brink on this and threaten to go. It looks like he’s in it for himself.”
Now he has resigned. The Brexiteers ultras are happy and I am too but it stills looks to me, at least, as if he is in it for himself.

But whether or not more ministers resign, Theresa May will not. It would take three months to replace her as leader under the Tory Party's absurd rules and the country cannot pause for three months. The moment when this could have happened was last Christmas. The Brexiteers bottled it.

What will happen now?

The British Government has little credibility in negotiations - least of all the Brexiteer Trade Secretary Liam Fox. People say there is a real possibility of leaving without a deal. I would be delighted by that but the small ultra Remain MPs on the Tory benches would prevent this. Boris Johnson's supporters could also vote down a soft Brexit which will leave Mrs May dependent on Labour rebels as Edward Heath was in 1972.

Then Roy Jenkins and the Labour Right came to his rescue, while Harold Wilson and Enoch Powell tried to bring down the government. So it might be again.

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