Theresa May’s Brexit plan can't possibly win a 'meaningful vote' in the Commons next month, and yet in the end May will get what she wants. The Brexit deal she's agreed with the EU is the one we've got. 'Hard' Brexit, a renegotiated 'Harder' Brexit (aka Canada), a 'Softer' Brexit, a 2nd Referendum and Remain are all pretty much zero probability now.
May wins, simply by dint of ignoring what everyone else wants, and ploughing on regardless.
The Guardian covered this in more detail yesterday, but basically while May is PM she holds all the cards. The EU negotiate with the PM, not with Parliament. Parliament can reject her deal and tell her to renegotiate it but they can't specify the terms.
The following will happen. It's inevitable.
- The PM will return from Europe with a deal, including a political declaration on the future relationship which is a million miles from what the Brexiters inside, and outside, Parliament want.
- She will lose the 'meaningful vote' - there are simply too many Tory rebels, and even if half of them abstain, the loss of 70+ votes won't be offset by a handful of Labour rebels (and a lone Lib Dem MP).
- But the result will be a lot closer than suggested by all the noise over the last few days - 'empty vessels' and all that. Everything Cabinet Ministers are now saying about the possibility of a 2nd Referendum, or Remain, is designed specifically to spook Brexiters in both main parties to support her deal, or at least abstain.
- Having lost the 'meaningful vote', May will do precisely nothing, thus rendering it meaningless.
- The Conservative MPs will not seek to replace her as party leader (they may well, eventually, get to 48 votes, but she'll easily win a confidence vote) and Conservative MPs will not trigger a General Election. There's zero chance of them giving Corbyn what he wants. They might be stupid and venal, but they aren't suicidal.
- 'Remain' Conservative MPs such as Jo Johnson, Dominic Grieve and Sarah Wollaston will flirt with the idea of a National Unity Government, under the Premiership of someone like Keir Starmer, Vince Cable (lol) or, er, Dominic Grieve. They'll come to the conclusion that the inevitable outcome of this is a General Election in 2019 and, having stared into the Abyss and seen John McDonnell staring back at them, they'll do ... precisely nothing.
- Corbyn will bluster, bumble and do ... nothing. To be fair to him, he doesn't have the votes to do anything. Anti-Corbyn Labour MPs, having been burned once, aren't going to unseat him.
- At some point in the New Year May will return to Parliament with the same deal dressed in slightly different clothes, and faced with the inevitability of crashing out if they vote against it again, MPs will vote it through.
May's biggest fear is that the ECJ will rule, 'before Christmas', that Article 50 can be unilaterally withdrawn by the UK, in effect delivering Remain (for the foreseeable future). But I don't think any of that changes the above. The Government, not Parliament, would have to tell the EU the are withdrawing their notification under Article 50.
This PM will never do that.
Jo Johnson and co. simply don't have the cahonas (if you'll excuse the phrase) to replace her with someone who would.