May’s allies have pep in their step amid Brexit deal optimism

Brussels still sceptical about May winning parliamentary approval for her deal even with further reassurances on the backstop

Jacob Rees-Mogg: “She won the vote, and therefore I have to accept the result of a democratic vote – similar to what I’ve been saying about the referendum.”   Photograph: EPA/Will Oliver

Jacob Rees-Mogg: “She won the vote, and therefore I have to accept the result of a democratic vote – similar to what I’ve been saying about the referendum.”  Photograph: EPA/Will Oliver

 

Tuesday’s extended cabinet meeting was preoccupied with the grim business of planning for a no-deal Brexit, with armed troops on alert and ferries chartered to secure the supply of food and medicines. However, Theresa May’s circle has a sudden pep in its step amid a bout of pre-Christmas optimism about next month’s vote on her Brexit deal.

Brexiteer shop steward Jacob Rees-Mogg, who last week called on the prime minister to resign even after she won a confidence vote in her leadership, fell meekly into line on Tuesday.

“She won the vote, and therefore I have to accept the result of a democratic vote – similar to what I’ve been saying about the referendum. We have had a referendum. A decision has been made, and, as I say, I am not in favour of a losers’ vote,” he told the BBC.

Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group (ERG) of backbench Brexiteers said they would support the prime minister in a vote of no confidence tabled by Jeremy Corbyn, a promise echoed by the DUP. The DUP’s 10 MPs, who have not supported the government in recent votes, have been on more cordial terms with May’s team in recent days.

May told the backbench 1922 Committee last week that her Brexit deal could only win a majority in the House of Commons with the support of the DUP. And some of her advisers now believe she can win that support in time for next month’s vote.

No change

This newfound optimism at Westminster finds no echo in Brussels, however, after the prime minister’s disastrous performance at last week’s European Council. The other 27 leaders told her there would be no further reassurances beyond those set out in the meeting’s official conclusions, and they stressed that there could be no change to the withdrawal agreement.

They were sceptical about her chances of winning parliamentary approval for her deal even with further reassurances about the backstop.

And they left the meeting convinced that making any concessions to Britain now would be to “throw good money after bad”, as one senior EU official put it.

There have been no Brexit negotiations, even on the most technical level, since last week’s summit, and there is no prospect of any until the new year.

With the Commons debate on the Brexit deal starting in the week of January 7th, that doesn’t offer much opportunity for the backstop breakthrough May needs to win over the DUP and her own Brexiteers.

BREXIT: The Facts

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