Five days to go until the UK is bound by an act of parliament to leave the EU, and yet again Mrs May intends to try to force through her deal by threatening the Brexiteers with dire consequences unless they back it.
As she is so fond of saying – even faced with a threatened attempt to remove her which flared in the Sunday papers and then fizzled out again – nothing has changed. Yup, it’s groundhog day all over again.
Over the weekend a series of Brexiteers were summoned to Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, for Mrs May to make their flesh duly creep. We don’t know what was said, but from what some wobbling Brexiteers have been saying for some time now it appears that the pressure has caused their powers of reason to take a holiday.
It’s said that they have told the PM that the price of their supporting her deal is that she commits to stepping down before the crucial second stage of EU negotiations.
They’re apparently considering supporting it because of the fear they’ve expressed, and on which she is accordingly playing, that unless they vote for her deal they won’t get Brexit at all.
To which once can only say, yet again, that if they vote for her Brexit-in-name-only-Remain-by-stealth deal they won’t get Brexit that way either.
For her deal would trap the UK under the EU’s one-way control for at least two years, turn Northern Ireland into a hostage to be sacrificed along with the sovereign integrity of the United Kingdom if the UK doesn’t agree to the EU’s demands, and pave the way for some kind of customs union in the final deal which would keep the UK in the EU’s clutches for ever.
If Mrs May’s deal was so totally unconscionable and unthinkable that even Remainers voted against it, how would it suddenly be transformed into an acceptable deal if Mrs May agreed to depart the stage – or even if Remainers succeed in kicking Brexit into the long grass, something which would ignite such public anger that both Labour and the Tories would risk electoral destruction?
Mrs May says the choice is between her deal and no Brexit. Untrue. The course MPs should follow instead, which is staring them all in the face and for which they themselves legislated, is to leave the EU this Friday.
MPs say this cannot happen because it would be catastrophic to leave with no deal. As has now become clear, and as I have written here and here, this is a ludicrous exaggeration. The UK is far more prepared than has been admitted, a state of readiness that has been concealed precisely to terrify MPs into supporting Mrs May’s deal.
The real cause of the Remainers’ panic over leaving with no deal is that this really would deliver Brexit – and is the only way to do so that’s on offer.
Anything can happen this week. Remainers are now going to throw everything at stopping the UK leaving the EU. We can expect rows, drama, bluff, threats, tumult, political and legal confusion and constitutional chicanery — not least, as this note by the Hansard Society suggests, over the EU’s offer, if Mrs May’s deal doesn’t pass, to extend the date of leaving to April 12, for which purpose the EU Withdrawal Act would need to be amended by statutory instrument passing through both Houses of Parliament.
The choice before MPs this week is, as it has always been, simply this: Leave or Remain? Honour the 2016 referendum result, or kick the voters in the teeth? The 2016 Conservative election manifesto said: “We continue to believe that no-deal is better than a bad deal for the UK”.
As Mrs May would not say on this occasion, nothing has changed.