The Tory ex-Minister Steve Baker has claimed that as many as 80 MPs will revolt and seek to replace May with Boris Johnson if she tries to force through her Chequers plan — a complex system of co-operation with EU rules.
The threat has created a new crisis in the Tory party and government. May and her allies know Labour MPs will oppose any such deal and that the they will need the backing of almost all Tories to win the vote
The retaliatory threat of a “No Deal Brexit” is all that May can do to try and tame the Brexiteers in the Tory Party.
Meanwhile, although the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier has publicly said that the Chequers plan lays down important benchmarks and that he is confident that a deal can be reached by November, he is rumoured to believe that the deal is dead-in-the-water.
An increasingly tight schedule to get the deal finalised by the government’s own deadline is making things even worse for May.
But the campaign to stop Brexit received a welcome boost this week as the GMB and the TUC came out in favour of a potential referendum vote on the final deal, with an option for Britain to remain in the EU.
A TUC General Council motion passed at TUC conference on 10 September says, “We do not rule out the possibility of campaigning for people to have a final say on the Brexit deal through a popular vote.”
It is clear that the labour movement opinion is beginning to shift on the necessity of opposing Brexit. The Labour Party’s official position now looks isolated. With eight months to go until the Brexit deadline a wait-and-see and hope-for-a-general-election approach is looking increasingly unrealistic. Even with the Tories in crisis, it could be four years until a general election, an election where Labour would still have an unclear policy.
John McDonnell seems to acknowledge these contradictions in The Observer on 9 September. He said that while preferring a general election, he believed Labour should keep all its options open, including the potential for a referendum on the deal and that the People’s Vote campaign had been “constructive”. That view should be welcomed. Even more welcome from trade unions and Labour would be a clear commitment to maintaining free movement and defending and extending the rights of migrants.
Sections of the left have decided the campaign for a vote on the deal is a plot to undermine the leadership and is only about strengthening the hand of the Labour right. Opposition to Brexit is not a right-wing plot. Equally there is nothing wrong in criticising the Corbyn leadership or pushing it into changing its position. Political debate and challenges are life blood of healthy democratic movements.
McDonnell expects their to be a full debate on the issue at Labour conference. Support for some version of the People’s Vote motion is now widespread across local Labour Parties including those with left majorities on their conference delegations. At the conference delegates can be confident that support for a second vote and stopping Brexit will have wide support and the debate is likely to be prioritised.
Momentum have said they won't advise members to vote against any motion on the People's Vote.
A YouGov poll of trade union members from the three largest unions also shows increased support for a referendum on the final deal. In each case between 55% and 66% of members of those unions want to remain in the EU, are concerned that living standards will deteriorate after Brexit and think leaving the EU is likely to worsen job prospects.
A minority of trade unions, the most vocal being the RMT, have continued to take a pro-Brexit but, in fact, incoherent stance. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash has said, “Let’s be honest here: the people’s vote or popular vote is nothing more than a Trojan horse to a second EU referendum, a second referendum that will lead to social unrest.”
In the fact the RMT is positively for Brexit, on the basis of a mythical national sovereignty and scare-mongering about the power of the EU being somehow far greater than that of the British state. Cash said his alternative was for an election that would bring in a Corbyn government. A fine idea but Brexit would not be any more plain sailing for a Labour government than it would for a Tory one!
PCS General Secretary, Mark Serwotka has been clearer on this issue, saying it is possible to walk and chew gum, you can be in favour of electing a Corbyn government, opposing the Labour right and still be for the People’s Vote. He is surely right.