An Amber warning of revolt is delivered as May’s Brexit strategy implodes. A new Battle of Britain is about to begin

This sort of thing just doesn’t happen in the British political system – a cabinet ultimatum  to the prime minister delivered in the Daily Mail

If we don’t get a deal next week we MUST delay Brexit’: MPs Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke appeal for Tory unity as party is engulfed by bitter in-fighting

By David Gauke, Amber Rudd and Greg Clark for the Daily Mail

Once the deal is passed, the benefits will be felt nationally. Optimism will surge, relief will be palpable, we will have pulled back from the damaging precipice of No Deal, and we can put the divisions behind us. But too many of our parliamentary colleagues appear complacent about the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal.

Our economy will be damaged severely both in the short and long term.

Our national security will be weakened.

And the integrity of the United Kingdom would be put at risk. A No Deal Brexit will mean that those whose lives straddle the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border will become much more complicated. It is already clear that moderate Nationalists who, up until now, have been reconciled to living in the United Kingdom, will increasingly see the attractions of a united Ireland. The calls for a border poll would grow stronger and, with it, the prospect of the end of the United Kingdom.

In such circumstances, it does not take much of a leap in imagination to see how the Scottish separatists would seek to seize the chance to break up Great Britain, too.

Far from Brexit resulting in a newly independent United Kingdom stepping boldly into the wider world, crashing out on March 29 would see us poorer, less secure and potentially splitting up.

It would be truly remarkable if this was as a consequence of Conservative MPs voting down the deal. We must be the party that promotes business, protects our security and preserves the Union. None of this would be achieved by pursuing a No Deal Brexit.

Our hope is that Parliament recognises that we should leave the EU on March 29 with a deal. However, if there is no breakthrough in the coming week, the balance of opinion in Parliament is clear – that it would be better to seek to extend Article 50 and delay our date of departure rather than crash out of the European Union on March 29.

It is time that many of our Conservative parliamentary colleagues in the ERG recognised that Parliament will stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit on March 29. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit

The Mail story  continues..

Unless Parliament votes through a Brexit deal before Wednesday, MPs are likely to be asked to vote this week on a motion that would effectively take No Deal off the table and force the Prime Minister to seek a Brexit delay.

Mrs May believes this would destroy her leverage in Brussels. However, it is understood the Cabinet rebels have indicated privately that they are prepared to resign if necessary to carry out their threat.

They could be joined by up to 20 junior ministers and 100 Tory MPs who, with Labour support, would be certain to defeat Mrs May. On another dramatic day in Westminster:

  • A hardliner in the European Research Group (ERG) warned up to a dozen MPs would cause ‘carnage’ and ‘effectively end the Government’ if Brexit is delayed;
  • EU officials claimed British negotiators had given up on securing either a time limit or unilateral exit clause from the Withdrawal Agreement;

  • EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he was ‘more worried than before’ about the talks and said there was a ‘high risk’ of an accidental No Deal;

  • Labour’s crisis intensified as Jeremy Corbyn was told ‘others will follow’ after a ninth Labour MP, former minister Ian Austin, quit the party;

And if that wasn’t enough…

Cabinet ministers will make it clear they believe Theresa May should step down after the local elections in May and allow a new leader to deliver the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, the Guardian understands.

Senior figures in government have suggested they want the prime minister to leave shortly after the first phase of the Brexit negotiations finishes – or risk being defeated in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year.

In Sharm -el-Sheikh,Theresa May should spare herself a last round of humiliating lobbying and get out the sun cream instead, before she faces a kind of nemesis on Wednesday. Was  a last minute lurch to a cross party vote her  personal backstop all along?  If so why did she leave it so late and put so many people in politics and the outside world through such wringers?

Next? 

On the biggest issue of the times we will no longer have a Conservative- only government. Some of the ERG will secede. A delay to Article 50 will be requested and granted.  Almost certainly we will not leave the EU on 29 March.  .  Next question – how long will be the delay?  The question after that. Can an all party coalition agree a majority proposition, some sort of soft Brexit or will opinion rise to a second referendum?

Even now, will Mrs May manage to kick the can down the road one more time, pleading she needs just a little more time to squeeze concessions from the EU, and if not she would “pivot” (as we have to say these days),  to a cross party solution?

Will a minority  Conservative government accept parliament “taking control?”

Or will either main party dare the other with a call for a general election at such a juncture?

Later

Labour are split between Jeremy Corbyn’s private support for Brexit and most MPs backing for  a second referendum.  Next week they will be able to vote for the cross party Cooper/ Letwin amendment to extend Article 50 and  an amendment from Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson to vote for May’s deal and put the result to a referendum. If it was lost the UK would say in the EU.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell extended an olive branch to anti-Brexit Labour MPs who are considering resignation by promising that the leadership is “moving towards” support for a second referendum. Around 100 Labour MPs – nearly half of the parliamentary party – are believed to support a fresh vote on EU membership and are pressing the leadership to move behind the campaign for a so-called People’s Vote.

After all the speculation, the  first phase of Brexit is about to draw to an unlamented but very messy  end. And ( with two fingers to Fintan O’Toole ), the next Battle of Britain is about to begin –  but this time, to hold Europe close rather than keep the Germans at bay.