Good chance MPs will vote for May’s Brexit deal

Latest political developments raise chances that Brexit zealots will back Theresa May’s Brexit deal. UK MPs must either accept likely adjustments to May’s withdrawal deal or vote for a Brexit delay.

This choice raises the chances of a victory for May’s withdrawal deal. Brexit zealots who have prefered a “no deal”, are now isolated. She needs the 118 Brexit wing MPs to back her. If they don’t, Parliament may choose to extend the March 29 withdrawal date. Brexit zealot MPs fear that an extension could be the first step towards a referendum. The British pound has soared as both scenarios, especially a potential May victory, are bullish for the currency.

Since the beginning of January 2019, the pound has soared by 6 per cent, but the devaluation since 2016 remains extensive.

For the Brexit zealots to vote for Mrs May’s deal, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox must obtain legal changes to the “Irish backstop”. These provisions, still under negotiation, would ensure that the UK would not remain in the EU customs union forever.

Tory Brexit wing leader is prepared to bend

“The whole point of leaving the EU is to take back control,” says Brexit European Research Group (ERG) leader, Jacob Rees Mogg. “If this issue can be resolved, then I would be content to support the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement.”

“I really do not mind what form of words the Attorney General and the EU agree on regarding the backstop – as long as it expires before the next election and has the same legal status as the deal,” Mr Rees Mog added in an article in the Daily Mail. “I do not agree with those who say the Withdrawal Agreement has to be reopened to solve the backstop problem. It is itself an appendix to the treaty, so I would be happy with a further appendix, as this would have equal legal force…..That would satisfy most of us who are worried.”

Mr Rees Mogg’s article was in response to a U-turn of Mrs May. Several cabinet ministers threatened to revolt, so Mrs May decided to let parliament vote for a Brexit extension. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn opted for a referendum if Parliament rejects his Brexit proposals. Rejection is likely, so an extension raises the possibility of a second referendum. Brexit zealots thus have to decide whether they should bend and vote for Mrs May’s deal. They appreciate that her compromise withdrawal accord ensures that the UK will leave the Union when Brexit falls due.

Corbyn’s promise of referendum plays into hands of Tories

The surprise referendum announcement of Mr Corbyn (known to be a eurosceptic) triggered an instant backlash from Labour MPs. They fear that their Brexit supporting constituencies will be furious. They believe that the 2016 referendum vote in favour of Brexit should be respected. Mr Corbyn is thus under pressure. A new YouGov poll placed Labour at only 23 per cent of a potential election vote, down 3 points on the week, the new independent group at 18 per cent, up 4 points and the Tories at 36 per cent.

Against the odds, Mrs May’s withdrawal deal now has a much better chance to succeed. The Vote due by March 12, could well be tight. But in recent weeks MPs voted that she could go back to the EU and negotiate adjustments to the original withdrawal accord. Assuming the Tories have united again, Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs join them and several Labour Brexitiers follow, Mrs May’s withdrawal accord could pass.

© Copyright Neil Behrmann
This article was first published in The Business Times, Singapore Neil Behrmann is London correspondent of The Business Times. Jack of Diamonds his thriller on global diamond mining and smuggling, has recently been published. It is the sequel to the thriller, Trader Jack, The Story of Jack Miner.
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