One by one, even hitherto staunch Brexiteers are falling away under the pressure of Mrs May’s blackmail tactics. They are abandoning a diminishing and heroic core of principled patriots to defend Britain’s democracy and stand fast in the desperate and nightmarish struggle that has developed to restore the UK’s sovereign power to govern itself.
Even Jacob Rees-Mog and Boris Johnson are now suggesting they might back Mrs May’s deal, which may be brought back to the Commons for a third Meaningful Vote on Friday – the day on which, as is stated in an act of parliament, the UK will leave the EU at 11 pm (although there is some legal argument in the wings over whether or not Mrs May’s extension agreement overrides this departure date in UK law, most observers seem to think it does).
Rees-Mogg says he believes that, given the determination of the majority-Remainer Commons to stop Brexit in its tracks, the only choice that remains is between Mrs May’s deal and no Brexit at all. Other Brexiteers are gibbering that Brexit is now to be seen as a “process”. They claim that at least Mrs May’s deal would take the UK out of the EU and that all would be still to play for in the all-important second stage negotiations about the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU.
What on earth are they talking about? This is garbage on stilts. Contrary to what Rees-Mogg has said, Mrs May’s deal does not deliver Brexit. During its “transition period”, the UK would remain under the rule of EU laws and the ECJ. Worse, it commits the UK, in the still-to-be- negotiated eventual deal, to remain in some kind of customs union. Worse still, it leaves Northern Ireland hostage to the threat of the dismemberment of the UK itself should the UK refuse to kow-tow to the EU’s demands. So the idea that the terminally weakened UK would be in any position to negotiate stage-two terms in its own interests is to take self-delusion to extreme ends.
That was, after all, why Rees-Mogg, Johnson and all the other Brexiteers – along with many Remainers in parliament – have twice rejected Mrs May’s deal as unconscionable. The Brexiteers said her deal would be worse than remaining in the EU. How then can they possibly even think now of voting for it? How is her deal different now from when they first said it?
As before, we don’t know what will have happened in this crisis by the end of today let alone the end of the week. What one can say is that, if the referendum result is reversed and the UK does not leave the EU, the political consequences will be extreme for both Tories and Labour.
It may already be too late to halt the catastrophic erosion of belief in the entire political process. Mrs May has deluded herself that her deal delivers Brexit and will thus save the Conservative party from the wrath of the voters. It does not, and will not. Every Brexiteer who is currently wavering should be under no illusion: if they vote for Mrs May’s deal, they will be voting for the collapse of the Conservative vote and maybe also the party itself.