It’s gone, the pressure has evaporated. MPs have started their week-long recess and our exit date has been kicked into late autumn. Brexiteers are emerging from Parliament bleary-eyed but undefeated. The surviving Leavers didn’t exactly win the last round, but they didn’t lose. The Withdrawal Agreement hasn’t been ratified and the threat of Parliament taking control of the agenda passed by with little more than a whimper.
But now it’s round two and Remainers see the months ahead as their golden opportunity. Indicative votes will become Bills ready to be turned into legislation rather than meaningless motions. Hostile MPs, with the help of the Speaker, may be allowed to seize the business of the House of Commons for weeks, rather than just days. It would be tempting to focus on each one of these threats as it comes, tackling each argument and facing each challenger in turn.
But instead of being side-tracked, Brexiteer MPs must focus their attention on the person whom many would argue is the great destroyer of Brexit. Theresa May is the captain at the helm, hard-steering our country towards the rocks of destruction whilst shouting at the crew for their lack of support. She cannot blame her MPs for the UK’s failure to leave on time after she herself bottled it. She said over one hundred times that 29th March was our leaving date, she said she would not delay Brexit beyond 30th June and she said we would not hold European elections. And yet here we are.
She holds the power to fire the gloomy Chancellor and the swathe of ministers who haven’t accepted the result of the referendum, but she chooses to let them remain. To avoid Parliament taking over in the final week she could have prorogued it. To avoid a Brexit delay she could have let us leave with no deal. The bear-traps and pitfalls facing Brexiteers came as a result of Theresa May’s premiership and they will only be extinguished when she is gone.
Theresa May seems to despise her ERG colleagues and chooses not to understand their sense of betrayal. Brexiteers should now fight from a position of strength, hitting Theresa May by withholding their votes. They have already been called disloyal by a Government that has trampled over its own manifesto. As long as she remains in place they could abstain on every fourth vote. After a week they could abstain on every third and in a month they might be sitting as non-voting members, only moving to support a confidence motion. This course of action may seem tepid to an enraged public: but to MPs it would seem radical.
Of course they will be under enormous pressure, but they should remember that ultimately comes from the Remain campaign. The pressure of 17.4 million votes should weigh more heavily on their shoulders than anything the Whips can say. Theresa May is busy in the kitchen cooking up more compromise, delay and betrayal whilst all around her the house is on fire. With a suicidal leader and the Brexit Party bearing down on them, can MPs afford not to do something bold? If they need to, they should block the Whip’s number from their phone or avoid the Tea Room, but they shouldn’t ignore the electorate. The same people who voted them in voted for Brexit and we are counting on them to deliver.
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