How heavily will Theresa May’s deal be defeated this evening? After the DUP announced that they would not be backing the deal in light of the new concessions, it looks near impossible for it to pass this evening. However, there is still much to play for when it comes to managing the size of the defeat.
The so-called ‘star chamber’ of Brexiteer legal minds have said that the changes to the deal fall short of what was asked of May. This is in line with the Attorney General’s legal advice – which warned the risk of being trapped in the backstop remained. Yet despite this there has been a steady drip of Leave MPs who voted against the deal last time coming out to say that this time they will be backing it (see Steerpike’s rolling list here). One such ERG member is Mansfield MP Ben Bradley. Bradley says he is now supporting the improved Withdrawal Agreement on the grounds that the ‘balance of risk has shifted’:
‘Risk of being tied in against our will is reduced, whilst risk of #Article50 delay, referendum or election forced by remain Parliament increases every day.’
This is a sentiment that is shared by a chunk of one-time rebels. There are some Brexiteers who genuinely believe May’s deal is so bad it is not worth saving. However, others suspect no deal is off the table and fear the backlash if there is no Brexit at all – and worry that it won’t just be Remain forces who will take the flak. For now it seems the arch-Brexiteers – including Steve Baker, Mark Francois and Andrea Jenkyns – are holding firm and planning to vote against the deal. Notably, key figures including Jacob Rees-Mogg have hinted they could soften to it if Brexit looks under threat.