With a crunch Cabinet meeting at Chequers on Friday on Brexit – another “make or break” meeting at Chequers, which as ever is being billed as something from which a fudge cannot emerge – talk switches to what will happen if the ERG group do not get their way. I don’t really even know what getting their way would like in pragmatic terms, but at this stage that is hardly the point. The question is, if they don’t feel like they are getting their way, will they order a vote of no confidence in Theresa May?
Just like there is every reason to think that what emerges from Chequers this Friday will be another fudge, even though we’re being told the time for fudges has passed, we have every reason to doubt the true Brexit types will actually bring down May. Basically, they have form in this arena. Given a chance to have a real Brexiteer as PM in Michael Gove, they massively chocked and ended up with May in the first place. Everything since has flowed from this very basic error. It has been clear for a very long time that the Prime Minister would either like or feels unable to prevent a very soft Brexit, and yet she has remained in post. Therefore, I doubt that this late in the game they will get rid of her. There is a real risk to Brexit itself in doing so, not to mention a possibility – although one more remote than most on the Left will care to acknowledge – of a Corbyn-led government coming to power.
But what if they did try and topple May? The most likely thing that would happen is that May would get the votes to stay in post in the no confidence vote. Begrudgingly, and with every intention of getting rid of her within the next year, but most of the Conservative parliamentary party would not be happy to see her defenestrated at this exact stage. For Remainers, it is would be fear of destabilisation; for soft Brexiteers, the fear of Brexit failing to happen in the ensuing chaos. No one really wants a leadership contest right this second anyhow for loads of other reasons.
Okay, but what if May failed at that stage and really did depart Number 10? Any new Tory leader would be faced with the same tough choices. And I don’t think any of the leadership candidates would really pull the trigger on a no deal Brexit given they would then be responsible for whatever happened next. So, the can would most likely be kicked even further down the road. Whether they like it or not, the true Brexiteers are stuck with May for the near future.