Billed as a day of drama, possible coups and resignations, yesterday’s Cabinet summit at Chequers turned into a bit of an anti-climax. Brexiters in the Cabinet said to be disgruntled with Theresa May’s latest proposals largely weighed in behind the Prime Minister. Of course, with the deal yet to be discussed by Europe there is a chance it could be rejected, but it appears temporarily at least peace has broken out in the Cabinet.
However, what about the Brexiters on the backbenches? Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the pro-Brexit Conservatives European Research Group (ERG) has said he is still waiting to see full details of the proposals but added it was possible this deal was worse than a no deal and that he would not vote for something that doesn’t deliver Brexit. Hardly, a glowing endorsement.
So, if the Brexiters do not like the proposals what can they do about it? Firstly, they can attempt to vote the proposals down in Parliament. This would depend on the position of the Labour Party. Should the Labour Party who have been advocating a softer Brexit back the Prime Minister than there will not be the numbers in Parliament for the Brexiters to win the vote.
Secondly, they can try and remove the Prime Minister. Presently, the ERG has the numbers to trigger a vote of no confidence but does not have the votes to win it. However, there are other ways that they can try to force the Prime Minister out including voting down major future legislation. This would be an extreme measure with clear consequences and would seem like a desperate last resort.
Thirdly, they can swallow it. Their dream has always been to leave the European Union. They are in touching distance of achieving this. They may conclude it is not worth rocking the boat with completion in sight. However, this is not a given. Ideology runs deep amongst the Eurosceptics and it would be naïve to simply believe they will accept a softer and softer Brexit without trying to fight back.
The reality is there is no easy choice for the ERG. From a Eurosceptic perspective it appears this is another battle they have lost. Now they have a decision to make over how they respond.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph: Sky News