Cabinet insurrection threatens Brexit

5 Jul 2018


Tory divisions over Brexit are rumbling on. Ahead of crunch talks at Chequers on Friday over the issue of leaving the EU, the Cabinet, and Conservative Party as whole, still find themselves squabbling like petulant children.


On Monday, champion Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested the Prime Minister faced the collapse of her Government unless she delivers the Brexit "she herself has promised". Mr Rees-Mogg was met with harsh criticism from a range of Tory MP’s, including Sir Alan Duncan, who claimed that Rees-Mogg showed “insolence in lecturing and threatening PM”.


Others offered support for Mr Rees-Mogg, notably the Foreign Secretary, who tweeted that “it’s vital that all MPs are able to air their views on Brexit”.


Recent divisions precede what have been labelled as make-or-break Cabinet talks on Friday, at which Theresa May is ready to present a third-way post-Brexit deal. Dubbed as a great compromise, the new deal is said to offer "the best of both worlds" - an independent trade policy and frictionless trade.


No details have yet been revealed as to the contents of the proposed deal, but a compromise with the Prime Minister may be better than the alternative. Heading towards a pivotal point in the Brexit negotiations, Tory MPs may wish to consider the consequences of their actions if they rebel against Mrs May and refuse to accept the proposed compromised.


With key elements yet to be agreed upon, including post-Brexit trade and the thorny issue of the Irish border, now more than ever is the time to get behind the Prime Minister.


With ministers yet to agree upon what type of customs arrangement is to be pursued post-Brexit, Friday’s meeting is crucial to the final months of negotiations. The meeting will be succeeded by a White Paper, outlining details of the UK's future relations with the EU, which is set to lay the framework for an agreement in the autumn.


If pro-Brexit MPs rebel too hard against the Prime Minister following the meeting on Friday they risk damaging the very nature of the Brexit people voted for.


Opposition to the potential compromise offered by the Prime Minister could result in an increased mandate for pro-EU MPs to attempt to force a vote and remain in the Customs Union. This would leave Tory Brexiteers in a worse situation than they would find themselves in were they to agree to the PMs proposed third-way deal.


Writing in the Telegraph, William Hague suggested on Monday that "if ardent Brexiteers push too hard, they will end up without their main objective". At this stage, Brexiteers need to remove their ideological obsession with a hard-Brexit and instead focus on delivering Brexit itself, in whatever form it may come.


The current two alternatives to a Customs Union that were proposed last year (a form of customs partnership and maximum facilitation system) have now been almost disregarded due to the lack of pragmatism and deliverability.


If the Brexiteers within the Conservative Party truly wish to deliver all that they campaigned for, before and since the referendum, they must ensure that Brexit itself is in the hands of the Government. If not, they risk it being manipulated by opposition parties who are seeking a watered-down Brexit, hardly reminiscent of what the people of the U.K. actually voted for.


Friday will be a turning point in the Brexit negotiations looked back on for years to come. For Brexit to be a success, Tory MPs need to make peace with Theresa May and accept her compromise, because the alternative could be even worse.


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