As parliament reconvenes after the summer recess, Peter Bingle looks ahead to what this week could bring us in terms of political drama.
Parliament is back and we are in for a week of political high drama. As Boris raises the Brexit stakes, opponents both within and outside the Tory Party face a day of reckoning.
Boris is (rightly) turning the expected vote on preventing a No Deal into an issue of confidence in the government. Put simply, any Tory MP who does not vote for the government will lose the Tory Whip which means they cannot be selected to fight the forthcoming general election. It will be interesting to see who is prepared to sacrifice their political careers for the national interest.
Corbyn also faces a difficult few days. He has backed away from forcing a vote of confidence because he wouldn’t win it. Likewise, there is no appetite to install him as an interim PM. Interestingly, it seems that the desire to prevent a No Deal is now so strong (at least according to Sir Keir Starmer) that a request by Boris to call an early election might be refused if polling day was after 31st October.
There is an assumption amongst the rebels that it is a given that the EU Council will support a further extension of Article 50. Is that really the case? Surely it is in President Macron’s political self-interest to say ‘Non’ and force a crisis here at home?
To add to an already complex situation, Michael Gove refused (in an interview with Andrew Marr) to confirm that the government would abide by an Act preventing a No Deal. This is more than just high political drama.
Likewise, Michel Barnier penned a rather unhelpful article in The Sunday Telegraph in which he signalled no change of mind on the Irish backstop. It is going to take a very long time to repair the damage to Anglo-Irish relations caused by the Irish government’s decision to unhesitatingly back the EU over Brexit.
So, what is going to happen? The answer depends on what you believe is the PM’s endgame. For all of the bluster about leaving the EU on 31st October with or without a deal, the best result for Boris is for the House of Commons to vote (with the support of around fifty Labour MPs) for a deal after he returns from the EU Council on 17th October. For that to happen, however, the EU must have blinked first and that will only happen if Merkel and Macron really believe Boris is prepared to leave with No Deal.
The only thing that is certain about this week is that the political careers of a number of Tory MPs will come to a premature end. To misquote Ko-Ko in The Mikado: “I don’t think they’ll be missed, I’m sure they’ll not be missed!”