A former advisor to Michael Gove has said that this evening’s vote on Brexit proceedings could “give Brussels the excuse they’re looking for” not to budge on the backstop, if Theresa May can’t inspire some sort of consensus among MPs.
Henry Newman, director of the think tank Open Europe and a Brexiteer, told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham that the vote on February 14 highlighted the split in government.
“[The vote] might not make much difference, but it might, in that what we’re seeing is a split between the government and the Eurosceptics,” he said.
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“If the Prime Minister can’t hold her party together, it gives Brussels the excuse they’re looking for to say nothing will ever satisfy some of these Eurosceptics, we don’t need to bother moving on the backstop because there’s just no point.
“There are very high expectations about what is possible at this point, we’re in the final stages of negotiations, we’re running out of time, we might, if we’re lucky, get a tweak on the backstop, but I don’t think it’ll be much more than that.”
Different factions 'could lose Brexit overall'
A number of amendments will be voted on this evening. Mrs May’s motion asks MPs to pledge their support for the plan agreed on January 29, and to recognise discussions on the backstop are ongoing.
The SNP are calling for an extension to Article 50, Labour are asking for a deal to be presented by February 27 or for parliament to take control of the process, and Keir Starmer has said that Labour would support another amendment from Yvette Cooper, seeking a vote on delaying Brexit.
Kenneth Clarke’s motion asks MPs to rank different Brexit options in order of preference.
“Hopefully we’re edging ever closer to a deal,” said Mr Newman.
“I can understand the devastation on the Remainer side but I think Brexiteers can be their own worst enemy in some cases.
“We’re still seeing different factions within the Leave movement pursuing all different kinds of options. Some want to go WTO [World Trade Organisation], irrespective of the fact that you probably wouldn't be able to get that through parliament, and I think the danger that we all run off and pursue our perfect Brexit, and in so doing, we manage to lose the project overall or end up with a worse deal than one that’s currently on the table.”