As we build up to what is now being widely called the Meaningful Vote there is a swirl of speculation over what would follow a defeat for the government. Political soothsaying is a tricky business at the best of times but right now it is virtually impossible to say too much with any degree of certainty.
Let’s assume the deal falls. Labour’s preferred outcome, a General Election following a successful motion of no confidence in the government is very very unlikely. Generally speaking, the Tories and Labour are roughly neck and neck in the polls but if they went to the polls the Tories would be facing Brexiteers angry at Mrs May’s sell-out deal and Remoaners who with their tails up seeing a clear route to either a softer Brexit or Remaining in the EU by voting Labour in, not to mention the bad impression given by May’s omnishambolic handling of Brexit. So, it is unlikely there would be the required number of Tory MP’s wanting to lay their jobs on the line by going to the polls plus the DUP have already announced that if the deal falls they will back the government (though not necessarily Mrs May) as they have no desire to see a Labour government.
Another leadership crisis leading to the removal of May as Prime Minister is possible especially as, safe in the knowledge that the DUP prefer them, Tory MP’s can remove her without the danger of having to face a General Election. However, the question then becomes what her successor will do. They could return to Brussels (as indeed could May) looking to renegotiate the Agreement. However, there is no guarantee that Brussels would offer any further concessions. Indeed, just about every senior Eurocrat under the sun has pretty much said this is the case.
Article 50 could be extended but there is simply no guarantee Parliament would pass this. It would have to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill as it enshrined the date of Brexit as March 29th 2019. However, May would have to fight almost her entire Party as there would be even less support and appetite for this than there is her deal and potentially rely almost totally on the opposition to get such a measure passed as its unlikely the DUP would back such a measure either so she may well fall in an attempt to make this happen. This leads us to a ‘No Deal’ scenario. However, any Prime Minister looking to go down this route would have to do battle with Parliament and the number of Parliamentary supporters of this outcome is currently small.
A second referendum, however, commands cross-party, though not public support and could win a majority with Labour’s backing, something they would almost certainly give if they failed to win a General Election. Indeed, a second referendum could be the outcome of any the scenarios I have just outlined. A ‘No Deal’ Prime Minister could, for example, call one to effectively overrule an obstinate Remoaning Parliament. So, it is my contention that the Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave, Richard Tice, was totally correct in what he said on the BBC’s Politics Live today:
“It will be brutal, it will be ugly, it will be the most divisive thing this country has ever seen” Richard Tice of @LeaveMnsLeave, adding: “I can see the PM within a fortnight calling a second referendum”
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) 7 December 2018
All Brexiteers should begin preparations for a second referendum. As the Roman General Vegetius said “if you want peace, prepare for war”. None of us wants a second referendum but it is looking increasingly likely there may be one regardless of what we objectively want or think is right. We should not allow ourselves to be caught unawares but instead stand ready to fight for our freedom.