Speculation about the effect particular Brexit options could have on the Conservative Party may hinder the course of democracy.
This Site reported yesterday (March 31) that pro-Brexit ministers are threatening to resign if Mrs May agrees a permanent customs union with the EU – but that is precisely the course most likely to be chosen by the “indicative” votes due to take place in the House of Commons today, if last week’s exercise in democracy is any yardstick.
So how would any conscientious Conservative ensure that their party stays together?
By not supporting the “customs union” option – that’s how. Right?
A customs union is part of the Labour Party’s preferred form of Brexit, so that party might whip its members to support the option whenever they can.
But there are good – in terms of party politics – reasons for the Tories not to support a customs union. According to the Mirror, “following that policy would break the Tories’ 2017 manifesto and stop the UK signing its own trade deals around the world.”
Despite turning their backs on manifesto promises almost as soon as they were made in 2017, the Tories have since become rather precious about them and it seems 170 Conservative MPs, supported by 10 cabinet ministers including Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Penny Mordaunt, have written to Mrs May, demanding that she take the UK out of the EU as soon as possible – and not into a customs union.
If that’s true, they’re saying she should honour the Tory manifesto by ignoring the will of Parliament (if a majority of MPs go for the “customs union” option). That would be contempt of Parliament, of course, and Mrs May’s government is already the only sitting government ever to be found guilty of that offence. A second such ruling might trigger the election that Tories are equally desperate to avoid, as it could be said that Mrs May’s administration was not fit to govern.
But another wing of the Tories seems keen for Mrs May to support a customs union – as suggested by David Gauke, The Guardian has reported.
Mrs May might be thinking she can get out of it with her plan to subject us all to a fourth vote on her meaningless Brexit deal, set against anything chosen by Parliament today.
But (again) it is entirely possible that a large contingent of her Parliamentary party could resign before she gets that far – even though any such vote will happen this week.
It’s a dilemma – and one that threatens to break the Conservatives in a big way if they get it wrong. I’m hoping they do.
But I fear that they will make a choice that helps only themselves – and even then, only in the short term.
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