by Frank Schnittger
Fri Mar 22nd, 2019 at 01:00:27 PM EST
The Daily Mail, formerly the chief cheerleader for Brexit and mouthpiece for "ordinary conservatives," and latterly (after a change of editor) chief cheer leader for Theresa May:
Theresa May was humiliated last night after EU leaders took control of Brexit and gave her a fortnight 'flextension' to get MPs to vote for her deal after calling her make-or-break summit display 'evasive' and 'confused'.
Britain will not leave the EU until at least next month after a late-night deal in Brussels where European leaders rejected Mrs May's appeal for an extension until June 30 after her plea for a three-month delay fell flat.
Instead they offered to extend Article 50 until May 22 - only if the Prime Minister gets her deal through Parliament next week.
But they warned her that if the deal was not passed she must make a decision by April 12 - just three weeks' time - amid growing rumours Mrs May could have quit by then.
Today Theresa May texted EU leaders and told them she would miss day two of the Brussels summit to return to London 'to work on getting the withdrawal deal passed'.
But slamming her approach Tory backbencher Michael Fabricant appeared to compared Theresa May to Neville Chamberlain, who signed a disastrous appeasement deal with Hitler, and said: 'At this difficult time we need a Churchill, not a Chamberlain'.
Insiders said EU leaders were visibly bemused during last night's Brexit debate described as '90 minutes of nothing' where Mrs May appeared 'evasive, had no plan and even seemed confused' when asked what she will do if her deal is voted down again.
One prime minister told aides afterwards: 'The only thing that came through with clarity was her lack of a plan' and one EU aide said afterwards: 'She didn't have a plan, so they needed to come up with one for her'.
Mrs May was ejected from the dinner and forced to eat alone as the talks continued to overcome the split and EU leaders then rejected her June 30 extension.
One senior EU official told Politico that after the PM left the room French President Emmanuel Macron said loudly that he believed Mrs May's deal had a 10 per cent chance of getting through the Commons but added: 'After listening to her, I now think five per cent' before Donald Tusk grimaced and chipped in that this 'sounded too optimistic'.
Reportedly Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, (all Tory Backbenchers) has told Theresa May that members think it is time for her to go. She will probably be allowed (Bercow permitting) to have one last chance to get her deal passed by the House of Commons now that it comes complete with rather short deadlines set by the EU Council. Most people still expect it to be defeated by rather a large (if lesser) margin. It will now be, effectively, a vote of confidence in her leadership.
If she doesn't resign after that Jeremy Corbyn will probably table another motion of no-confidence which he could win with some Tory abstentions. Constitutionally, the Tories will then have two weeks to elect a new leader and win a vote of confidence - otherwise a general election will ensue.
The rules of the Conservative Party provide for the Parliamentary party to nominate two members to stand for election by the general party membership. If one of the nominated two withdraws (as Andrea Leadsom did in 2016), the remaining nominee becomes Leader. Otherwise a ballot of members is organised to close "as soon as is practicable" which in 2016 was not deemed to be until September 9th. - over two months after the selection of two candidates by the Parliamentary party.
It is as yet unclear if Graham Brady (charged with organising the Tory leadership election) would deem a closing date prior to May 22nd. to be practicable. So a longer extension of the A. 50 notification period - and participation in the European Parliament elections - would probably be required - ironically to facilitate a Tory leadership contest. The EU Council may not be overly keen to facilitate the election of an even more extreme Tory Brexiteer leader, but would probably feel obliged to allow democracy (albeit in-party democracy) to take its course.
In the meantime the Tories would also have to win a confidence vote in the House of Commons (if they had lost a previous one) with May as temporary leader. Presumably fear of a Corbyn premiership would induce the DUP and Tory rebels to support it.
Over a dozen Tory hopefuls are said to be preparing leadership campaigns, with Jeremy Hunt's said to be the most sophisticated and advanced. Some Tory MP's have said they will resign the party whip if Boris Johnson is elected. His chief problem will be to unite Brexiteer MPs behind him with so many other candidates crowding the Brexiteer field.
It is also unclear who the more establishment and centrist MPs will unite behind. Gove? Fox? Hunt? However it seems likely that no Tory Remainer need apply. Even if they could win one of the two Parliamentary party nominations, the Tory membership is said to be hard Brexiteer, with an average age of 70+, and with a large influx of ex UKIP members moving it steadily to the right.
So it seems certain that the next Tory leader will be a hard "no deal" Brexiteer, even if hard Brexiteers are a minority within the Parliamentary party. If it is Boris Johnson, he may not win election as Prime Minister in the House of Commons if some Remainer Tories carry out their threat to resign the whip. Then we will have a general election fought to obtain a mandate for a "no deal" Brexit.
At least the EU Council will have gotten their wish of "a major constitutional event" to justify a long A.50 extension, but I would not rule out a Boris Johnson win. The vagaries of the UK electoral system mean that even a party with only 35% of the overall vote could win an overall majority if the opposing votes are divided and scattered enough.
Who would do a better job of unifying the vote behind them?: Johnson with the Brexit vote, or Corbyn with the Remain/ambivalent/soft Brexit vote? It seems the Remain vote is inherently more divided. Certainly Johnson would be a lot more effective campaigner than Theresa May ever was, though that wouldn't be hard.
So all in all, there are still far to many variables and imponderables to make a firm prediction, although the odds still seem slightly stacked in favour of a hard no deal Brexit - absent a huge surge in the Remain vote behind Jeremy Corbyn.