Theresa May has had just three working days to turn around a new proposal to the House of Commons, after her withdrawal agreement was shot down in a historic defeat. That new proposal was announced today in the Commons, and it was underwhelming to say the least. I listened intensely, and heard very little substance – just more promises and suggestions that she will talk to other parties, come up with a new solution, and then take it back to the EU and see if they’ll go for it.
There have been multiple suggestions on the rolling news coverage this morning that Mrs. May wasn’t about to announce a Plan B, but instead, a Plan A version 2.0. That’s what happened. She’s even been mocked for dragging MPs into a “Brexit Groundhog Day” after her announcement sounded like more of the same. This is the same deal, and she’s seeking new concessions just like she did last time.
The only solid proposal I heard in her statement today was that she was scrapping the £65 fee that millions of EU citizens here in the UK were going to have to pay to secure the right to stay here. It is an attempt to win over some Remain-leaning MPs I’m sure, but I doubt it will make any real impact. What will change things, however, is if she follows through with her promise of further discussions with the DUP to discuss their concerns about the Northern Irish backstop.
There were rumours floating around yesterday that the Prime Minister might have considered amending the Belfast Agreement (The Good Friday Agreement, which agreed on a peace process on the island of Ireland). The Prime Minister shot down this claim today when she said in Parliament that she had never considered this option, and never would consider this option. Number 10 sources also indicated that the report was false, and that the Prime Minister was not considering revisiting the agreement that guarantees no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
So what are we faced with here? Well, it look like Theresa May has taken note of Labour’s refusal to cooperate, and will now work with the DUP to solve the backstop issue and secure support not just from her colleagues in Northern Ireland, but also her own rebel MPs. If she gets the DUP on board, she can get Rees-Mogg and many other rebels on board too. Interestingly, though, her “Plan B” has already been rejected by European leaders.
Dublin today offered a “no” to Downing Street’s request to ask for backstop concessions, and the Vice President of the European Parliament also rejected the idea of a new Anglo-Irish treaty to remove the backstop from the EU agreement.
Mrs. May now has until the 29th January to come up with a new deal and put it before Parliament. Unless she scores real concessions this time, she’ll be forced to either extend or revoke Article 50, propose a second referendum, or leave without a deal. Leaving without a deal doesn’t appear to be on the cards, however. Mrs. May is determined to betray the democratic will of the people – no matter how much she might claim otherwise – and I’d be greatly surprised if she found herself in that situation. That is, despite the fact that No Deal was today shown to be the most popular Brexit option according to an ICM poll.