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Theresa May will win. Here’s why.

In a world of complete political chaos, where quite literally anything could happen on an hourly basis, surely only a muppet would try to predict the outcome…? Well….

When she goes inside 24 hours, everyone can have a laugh at how wrong I got it. But here’s a contrarian’s view: I think Theresa May is going to win.

Here’s why.

There are three groups of people in the Britain today: Leavers, Remainers, and people who want some kind of compromise deal. You may argue that no such thing as a compromise can exist, and the inherent contradictions of Brexit mean that you either leave clean or you stay in. But compromises are generally what politics is all about, and so a compromise is what we have.

Like all compromises, it pleases no-one. But other than the obvious point that by definition it is closer to each side than each is to the other, it does have one thing going for it in political terms: in being a Brexit deal, it can claim to be Brexit – and that will be enough to satisfy some. Leading Brexiteers will scoff and say it is Brexit in Name Only, but as it ends free movement, it does a job. By no means all who voted Out did so out of fear of immigration – Tory Brexiteers in Parliament who oppose the deal will argue that “reclaiming Sovereignty” was the key – but for many in Labour-leaning constituencies, immigration and its surrounding perceptions about jobs played at least a part.  Wherever Jacob Rees-Mogg and the ERG sit, therefore, it’s unarguable that Theresa May’s deal delivers some of the things that some of the people who voted to leave had in mind when they did so. Put simply, the deal clearly isn’t the exact status quo, so it can’t be Remain. Which means it is Brexit – of sorts.

What that means in turn is that it squares a circle for some MPs: those who themselves think we should remain, but whose constituents voted to go. That group – which includes a not insignificant faction in the moderate wing of the Labour party – can back the deal, tell their constituents that they have voted for Brexit, and get something closer to remaining (which they would like) than a departure on WTO terms (which they dread). Long story short, while it is easy to suggest that adding disgruntled Tories to the Opposition benches means that the maths are strongly against the deal (particularly if you’re an ERG MP and are talking your own book…), there is nonetheless still a fair probability that Labour MPs who oppose Brexit (of which there are many) will demur from the Corbyn viewpoint and vote with the Government (or abstain). And there is an equally strong possibility that those who do so will outnumber the unhappy Tory Brexiteers. On that basis, the deal will go through.

In that scenario, Theresa May will have been saved by the Opposition – an intolerable position for the Tory Right – so she would suffer a Vote of Confidence, which at that point she would probably lose. But… Though she would then fall, the victory for her Tory Right opponents will be Pyrrhic: Brexit would have gone through in a format that they hate. Which means that in reality, they have to act sooner than that, and try to oust her before the deal comes to the House.

But… If that happens, would they win it? Many Tory MPs fear the implications (which are that it adds to the risk, as they see it, that Corbyn ends up in Number 10), and 159 would have to vote against her. Even the ERG believe that they only have 80 or so who would vote with them on the deal, and it seems unlikely that more would vote with them on a confidence vote. Worse than that for the ERG: the Prime Minister needs only to win a Vote of Confidence by a single vote to continue, and if she does, she will win a 12-month stay of execution before anyone can challenge her again. So a challenge before the deal is voted on could actually mean that she could win the Brexit vote with Labour support and then not be at risk of being ousted by disgruntled Tories because it’s a year before they can vote again. No wonder opponents are still hesitating to call for the wielding of the knife.

So the key to it all lies in how many people in parliament (or more specifically, Remainers in the Labour party) think that they can get a second referendum if this deal is voted down. If enough of them do – and there’s certainly an argument to say that they don’t fear the chance of no deal enough – then the May deal will be defeated. And if it is defeated repeatedly, she will go. But Remainers also know that it is far more likely that she will be replaced by a harder-line Tory Brexiteer than by a Remainer – and that as a consequence, the chance of us falling out of the EU with no deal will become more likely than the chance of a second vote. Picture yourself as a Labour Remainer, and imagine which way you would bet. They seem to me far more likely to conclude that the best deal that they can get is the deal that is on the table: a customs union half-way house that retains much of our current EU trade.

None of which is to say, of course, that there will not be some seriously rocky moments. If Gove resigns, as many think he will, life will be extremely uncomfortable for the Prime Minister. But important people resign and the world goes on. Nine Cabinet Ministers have resigned this year, and I bet most people can’t name two of them. What matters is who wins the votes (of Confidence, and on the deal), and while resignations will influence where a few people come out on those, the basic facts laid out above don’t change because Michael Gove is no longer in the Government.

So all in all, it may be an unusual view, but I think May is going to win. It may take more than one vote, but this deal or something very close to it will pass the Commons either after she wins a Vote of Confidence, or before she loses one.  But either way, I’d bet that the deal that’s on the table will go through. The idea either that we fall out of Europe without a deal, or that we vote again, is for the birds.

Posted in Britain, Politics.

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