Since Prime Minister May's Brexit withdrawal deal was presented to Cabinet and Parliament last week, there has been a hive of opinion both on and offline. The deal will be put to Parliament for a meaningful vote, expected to be held on December the 11th. The majority of comment from MPs and political pundits and commentators is that the deal will fail. I’m not so sure. Here are four short reasons why I think May’s deal might catch us all by surprise and just sneak through.
THE ERG ARE A BUSTED FLUSH
If you thought Owen Smith's failed coup to oust Jeremy Corbyn was an embarrassing failure then I hope you were following the European Research Group's coup of the 48 letters. This embarrassment has taken the sting out of the ERG's tail somewhat.
Indeed, whilst the hardliners are never going to vote for this deal in parliament they hold less power in lobbying colleagues to do the same. The importance of this is that it diminishes the credibility of influential figures such as Jacob Rees-Mogg. In turn, this alleviates some of the pressure that is likely to be applied to less hardline conservative MPs on either side of the debate.
ITS MAY'S DEAL OR NO DEAL
I think this is maybe the most important point. The European Commission and a majority of the EU27 countries have made it clear on numerous occasions now that they will not reopen negotiations. This hammers home that it really is May’s deal or no deal at all.
Opponents of the deal in parliament from the ERG, Tory Remainers, Labour and the SNP all say ‘of course the EU would say this’ and it’ll be a different story once the commons vote down the deal. However, there is a real sense that the EU wants to get on with this now and mean what they say. Plus, these are the same politicians who dismissed distrusting comments and denials of statements from the EU earlier on in the process. So it appears to me to be an incredibly high stakes gamble to assume the EU are bluffing.
WHAT DOES CORBYN REALLY THINK?
Most would agree that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a secret Brexiteer or at the least a very soft Remainer. A large portion of his lifelong political ideology is incompatible with EU membership, for example industry renationalisation and state aid interventions. It's quite conceivable, then, that out of the three outcomes that seem most likely,May’s deal, no deal or no Brexit, that no Brexit is in fact what Corbyn most fears.
It’s also interesting to look at the different tone and rhetoric from Corbyn and McDonnell compared to Labour backbenchers. Whilst most Labour MPs are strongly speaking out against the deal, the labour leadership is taking a slightly softer tone. They’re against the deal sure, but they use language that suggests they could be satisfied with minor tweaks, with McDonnell saying Labour just needs to take over in order to ‘finalise the deal’ rather than ‘start from scratch’.
I wonder how strong the Labour whipping operation will really be?
THE PUBLIC WILL BACK IT
In the immediate aftermath of the deal being publicised, there was a great deal of negativity from voters in terms of social media opinion and more importantly, opinion polling results. However, in just a week we have seen support for May and her deal rise substantially in the eyes of the public.
This is for two reasons. Firstly, as we often hear, people truly are fed up with Brexit. Despite all the arguments over a peoples vote or ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, the majority of people just want Brexit over and done with. And May's deal achieves that. To many, the thought of going back to renegotiate and possibly extend article 50 is unfathomable.
Secondly is the public reaction to the failed coup. Voters don’t react well to disloyalty and further attacks on May are likely to garner sympathy for her.
This is why May and the number 10 team are going over the heads of parliamentarians and instead appealing directly to the general public. Through phone-in shows and the rumoured TV debate. If in the next couple of weeks public opinion is shown strongly enough in support of ‘just getting on with it’ and passing the deal then pressure will mount considerably on moderate MPs to vote for the deal.
It would not surprise me if, in the end, this deal does pass and we leave the EU on the 29th of March next year on May’s negotiated terms. However, if come December the 11th the vote is defeated, I’m going to have a hell of a lot of egg on my face!