With Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un now officially BFFs after their successful summit meeting in Singapore, the microscope has once again fallen on domestic politics after another tumultuous day in the office of Theresa May.
The Prime Minister was taken to task about the proposed Brexit bill; but only after last minute talks with the 14 Tory rebels threatening to derail her plans.
That small group accepted several concessions from the government about the state of the ‘meaningful vote’, and while the result of the ballot was hardly overwhelming – 324 votes to 298 – it would appear that May has a tiny majority to carry forward into negotiations.
Alas, it wasn’t exactly the comprehensive vote of confidence the PM was looking for, and rumblings of discontent in the House continue to undermine her future in 10 Downing Street.
Indeed, the bookmakers have her likely exit date to be 2018; the first time that Theresa May has been predicted to stand down as Prime Minister this year.
A Vote of Very Mild Confidence
The whole matter surrounded around the ill-feeling of a small group of Conservatives, including Dominic Grieve, Ed Vaizey and former Cabinet minister Justine Greening, that the UK was continuing to erode power in negotiations with the EU ahead of the proposed Brexit date of March 2019.
But after calling the group into her office, May managed to convince the rebels that their concerns were being dealt with and would be raised when the EU exit plan goes back before the House of Lords on Monday.
It was enough to secure a 26-vote majority, thus blocking the ‘meaningful vote’ amendment, and allowing the Prime Minister to at least paper over the cracks for the time being.
But according to The Guardian’s sources, ‘furious Brexiters immediately condemned’ the plans to hand over some Brexit powers to MPs, with future meetings between Conservative ministers likely to result in a ‘showdown’, rather than a fruitful meeting of minds over croissants and orange juice.
Grieve himself has said: “The Prime Minister agreed that the amendments we had tabled, and the issue that we had raised about Parliament’s role in the event of no deal, was an important one and undertook to work with us to put together amendments to present in the Lords which would address those concerns.”
What is the Meaningful Vote?
The meaningful vote was, essentially, a ballot on whether ministers believed the government was fit and able to conduct Brexit negotiations.
It’s an act of rebellion, really: the government must present their final Brexit terms in the autumn, and parliament then votes on whether they want to accept the strategy or not. If they had voted against the plans, the ‘meaningful vote’ would allow ministers to step in and take over the negotiations.
This was known as Amendment 19, proposed by life peer Douglas Hogg and backed by a number of key Conservative politicians. And the assumption is that if the Prime Minister hadn’t been able to pacify the demands of the rebel group, that 26-vote swing may have been rather closer.
If Amendment 19 had been passed, it would have almost certainly been curtains for May in what would have been recognised as an informal vote of no confidence.
May Set for Winter of Discontent?
The bookmakers do have a habit of getting the lie of the land wrong when it comes to gauging the public’s voting plans – Leave and Donald Trump, both long odds-against bets, spring to mind – but they seem more certain that the Prime Minister will walk – or be pushed – before the end of 2018.
There is a growing sense that she may not be able to secure a Brexit deal by the cut-off date of November 30, and that would bring in a Commons vote as to the exact terms of the divorce bill. At this point, it is felt that a ‘softer’ deal would be thrashed out, which from an electoral standpoint would presumably leave May with no leg to stand on if she is perceived to have ‘failed’ to deliver a satisfactory Brexit conclusion by the electorate.
And the bookies have acted. The Prime Minister is as short as 6/4 to leave her post by the end of the year, with 2019 lengthening to 7/4. Her hopes of a long stint in Downing Street appear to be a pipedream, with ‘2020 or later’ as long as 9/4.
No Brexit deal to be reached by April 1 – a staggeringly worrying possibility – is as short as 6/4 with some bookies, and they also have the UK to apply to rejoin the EU by the year 2027 as short as 3/1!