May wins Brexit power struggle but real fight looms – leader comment

Theresa May in Parliament. Picture: AFP/Getty
Theresa May in Parliament. Picture: AFP/Getty
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The UK Cabinet’s ‘collective decision’ to back the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan has staved off the collapse of the Government but the real battle is yet to come.

Amid considerable tension, as rumours of ministerial resignations and a leadership challenge swirled, Theresa May emerged from 10 Downing Street last night to reveal that her Cabinet had agreed to carry on marching behind her somewhat tattered banner of ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

It was a victory, of sorts, for the Prime Minister, but she was far from triumphant. She said she “firmly believed” her draft plan was “the best that could be negotiated” and revealed that she had been backed by the “collective decision of Cabinet”, with rumours many members refused to give their backing. She also “firmly believed” – and this time “with my head and my heart” – that her plan was “in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom”.

READ MORE: Brexit: ‘Theresa May’s deal will leave UK poorer and weaker’

From Brussels came words of encouragement. Guy Verhofstadt, chair of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, said this “fair deal” should “ensure an orderly withdrawal” of the UK from the EU, while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the “decisive progress”.

The number of people in Britain – and, in particular, MPs – and the number of other EU states who share such positive views will now be put to the test. May acknowledged there “will be difficult days ahead”, but warned the alternatives were a no-deal Brexit or “no Brexit at all”. This argument appears to have won the day in Cabinet but the question now is whether enough Remainer MPs will be cowed by the dangers to the economy of a chaotic no-deal and enough Brexiteers whipped into line by the fear that their aspirations for a new dawn could be thwarted.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has already written to fellow Conservative MPs saying he plans to vote against the deal and urging them to do the same. The Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, who changed her mind during the Brexit referendum campaign, switching from Leave to Remain, tweeted that the documents published last night about the deal contained “thin gruel” with “simply not enough detail ... for anyone to make any sensible judgement”.

After once again staving off the collapse of her Government, May lives to fight again, but the real battle is yet to come. Under her leadership, Britain appears to be stumbling towards a Brexit that pleases almost nobody and is palpably not in the national interest. All for the lack of a better way to fulfil the ‘Will of the People’ expressed in a narrow referendum result.

READ MORE: Brexit: Why I will not vote for Theresa May’s deal – Ross Thomson MP