The Tories’ Brexit crisis has descended further into farce. But behind the absurdity is a deep panic in the ruling class.
Theresa May had hoped to bring her Brexit deal back to parliament for a third time this week.
But Commons speaker John Bercow said there can’t be a third vote on the deal without substantial changes to it.
MPs also last week voted against leaving the European Union (EU) with no deal. It was another defeat for May.
She had initially proposed the motion, ruling out a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. But MPs passed an amendment ruling out no deal in all circumstances.
This forced May into a U-turn and Tory whips instructed Tories to vote down the amended motion.
It passed anyway.
Four cabinet ministers—Greg Clark, David Gauke, David Mundell and Amber Rudd—defied May to abstain. Seven junior ministers also abstained.
And one minister, Sarah Newton, voted in favour then resigned.
Next, May put a motion authorising her to ask the EU to agree a short delay to Brexit.
Eight ministers voted against the motion—including Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay. Less than an hour earlier, Barclay had urged MPs to vote for the motion “in the national interest”.
The government’s chief whip Julian Smith—responsible for getting Tories to back May’s proposals—abstained.
The motion passed. But 188 Tory MPs voted against while just 112 voted for.
The chaos in parliament exposes the weakness and division at the heart of the government. And May has no easy way out.
She was due to meet EU leaders on Thursday to discuss an extension to the 29 March Brexit deadline.
Because a deal is in EU rulers’ interests, they are likely to agree on extending. But that won’t solve May’s crisis.
EU officials have already said they won’t negotiate further on May’s deal. And she had failed at the start of the week to convince enough Tories or the bigots of the Democratic Unionist Party to back it.
More commentators are asking how long May can survive. But the crisis goes much deeper.
The Financial Times newspaper said that “the priority must be to avoid chaos”.
It called for MPs to “stabilise the political situation”.
Those at the top want to stay in the EU, and threaten ordinary people with food shortages, price hikes and job cuts if there is no deal.
A so-called “People’s Vote” on Brexit is another part of the push to overturn the Leave vote.
But the EU is a bosses’ club set up to protect profits, not ordinary people. The call for “stability” means continuing the conditions that let bosses get rich at our expense.
We should use the chaos to drive out the Tories—and to fight for a system where our interests come first.
A bung to back Brexit?
Esther McVey resigned from Theresa May’s cabinet last November over the Brexit deal.
Chancellor Philip Hammond gave £21 million in the Spring Statement last week to provide infrastructure for a North Cheshire Garden Village in McVey’s constituency.
McVey said last weekend that MPs should “hold their noses and vote” for the deal.