The rebel MPs kicked out of the Tory party held a phone conference last night to plot their next move, I understand. The group, now numbering 22 after Amber Rudd’s resignation, is keen to work across the Commons to get a deal past MPs that the European Union would accept, and it wouldn’t be a million miles away from what Theresa May tried – and failed – to get MPs to approve.
There’s another meeting today, this time of the group ‘MPs for a Deal’, which is being led by Rory Stewart from the ex-Tory side, and Labour’s Caroline Flint and Stephen Kinnock. They don’t want a ‘carbon copy of the Withdrawal Agreement’, but do feel it provides a ‘solid and realistic basis on which to build to reach a compromise that can pass in the Commons to avert no deal’.
The activities of these two groups have infuriated Downing Street, with one insider telling me that the Tory rebels have conspired to ‘wreck our negotiating position’. No. 10 still insists that a deal is possible, but much harder after the antics of the rebels. The European Union is less likely to budge towards Boris Johnson’s demands if large groups of MPs are still pushing for something akin to May’s deal. Indeed, these groups appear to be growing in number as more MPs stare down the barrel of a no-deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson and his advisers show great hostility towards these MPs, and the feeling is mutual. So how will things move to a point where one or the other gets their way? Well, the battle is likely to move swiftly from parliament, which could be prorogued as early as today, and into the courts. Both sides are ready for this looming legal battle. But it does show how badly parliament has failed over the past few years that the conclusion to this fight won’t likely be found in the Commons chamber.