The Prime Minister's appearance in parliament yesterday confirmed as nothing else could that the Robbins Treaty will not get through a Commons vote on 11th December. From every side of the house, in refined parliamentary voices, our MPs said "Pish! We don't believe you" as Mrs May struggled to repeat in slightly different ways the same six lies on which she's depended since giving up on "No deal is better than a bad deal". This itself has gone the same way as "Strong and Stable" and others of Theresa's trite little maxims. She is set to tour the country for the next two weeks repeating those same six lies ad nauseum to anyone holding a microphone, and her supporters and Brandon Lewis' office have been sent off to conquer social media. I suspect they've all been instructed to publish six tweets in support of their doomed leader, but judging by their output, their hearts are not in it.
Conservative MPs have a finely tuned sense of survival, and by last night they had begun to realise that the game was up. Mrs May is unlikely to survive her coming Commons defeat on 11th December, and her supporters know it. Brandon Lewis, who will fall with Mrs May, has nothing to lose, but others including I suspect James Cleverly, just last week the most prominent of Mrs May's social media warriors, has suddenly gone very quiet. Other MPs have practised for eating-up their Christmas sprouts; some who can't quite bring themselves to repeat Mrs May's six lies have just done their homework by re-tweeting those that can. "What he said". Then running away with proof for the Whips.
Before that 'meaningful vote' on 11th December we have five days of Commons debate on the Robbins Treaty. The Lords have no vote, but the Commons will consider their views on the 12th. Then those protracted and complex amendments from earlier in the year kick in. As the Commons Library advises
a Minister of the Crown would be obliged to make a statement under s. 13(4) European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 no later than 21 calendar days thereafter. The Government then has seven sitting days within which to move motions in both Houses on the statement.The House is due to rise for Christmas on the 20th, returning on 7th January. The Chief Whip already has his timetable sketched out;
After Christmas things are equally tight. As the guide advises;
If, on 21 January 2019, no political agreement has been reached regarding the Withdrawal Agreement and/or the framework on the future relationship, a Minister of the Crown must make a written statement within five calendar days, as per s. 13(11) European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.Now two matters which are being trailled in the press. The first is the extent of the government's defeat, punted by those who believe that it is possible to be a little bit pregnant. If the majority against May is not over 100, they say, it's an invitation for her to ask the House to vote a second time, after she's made a purely cosmetic visit to Brussels to record some encouraging noises, but no actual changes to the WA, from the Commission.
This means a written statement as to the Government’s intentions must be made by Saturday 26 January at the very latest.
The motion must then be moved within a further five sitting days, meaning Parliament would be asked to debate the Government’s intended course of action no later than Monday 4 February.
The second is what is being billed as the TARP option; between the first and second votes, Hammond and Carney will co-ordinate a crash in Sterling and UK stocks, thus scaring MPs into agreeing the Robbins Treaty in the same way that US Congressmen were frightened into passing TARP on the second go.
I think both are unlikely. I think by the 12th, the Conservative Party will be looking for a new Leader - the May government will effectively have fallen. The question is whom will Her Majesty invite to form the next government - for Ministers are needed to get those key Brexit actions through.