— TSE (@TSEofPB) February 25, 2018
Three cabinet ministers warned Theresa May during private talks on Brexit at her Chequers retreat last week that her government could collapse this year.
Julian Smith, the chief whip, told May there was a “very real threat” that Labour could unite with 15 to 20 Tory rebels to defeat the government on their decision to rule out membership of a customs union.
Senior ministers say there are discussions about whether the prime minister should turn the vote into a confidence issue, threatening a general election if Tory MPs vote with the opposition.
In the same discussion Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, warned May that the Democratic Unionists propping up the government should not be relied upon to “turn up” and vote to save her. The Brexit war cabinet even discussed the prospect of Sinn Fein’s six MPs taking their seats, a move that could dramatically erode the Tory majority.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, told May that the emergence of Jacob Rees-Mogg as leader of the hardline Eurosceptic group of backbenchers had led to MPs “militarising” against her. Downing Street officials fear they will submit letters demanding a leadership contest if she accepts a customs union.
A few weeks ago I said Mrs May had to reject a customs union or be toppled as Prime Minister, now she’s facing the opposite situation, with the added complication of her government falling as she faces up to a no win scenario.
Yesterday Dominic Grieve, like the true patriot he is, said he was going to put the country ahead of his party, even if it meant the government falling over a customs union, I expect he is not alone on the Tory benches.
From a betting perspective I’ve started to back 2018 as the date of the next election & laying 2022 as the date of the next general election.
The other betting position I’ve taken is to minimise my potential losses on Jeremy Corbyn as next Prime Minister. If the government falls over a customs union vote there’s a chance Corbyn becomes Prime Minister without a general election.
One thing that genuinely unites the Tory party is the belief that Jeremy Corbyn would be a disastrous Prime Minister who will ruin the country long term. However some Tories may decide that managing Brexit is just too damaging for the Tories and they might abstain in a Parliamentary vote and make Corbyn PM.
Mrs May isn’t the only Tory facing a no win scenario, no wonder Mrs May has delayed the vote on a potential customs union until May.
PS – I hope the Brexit war cabinet are willing to bet on whether Sinn Féin take up their seats in Parliament, I’ll be backing the No side of this bet.