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A few days ago Theresa May gave an address to the nation outside Downing Street at 10:00pm, a most unusual time for such a speech. It came after her Brexit deal had been defeated in the House of Commons and her Government had survived a no-confidence vote. It was yet another tumultuous episode in her rather forlorn time as Prime Minister.
She stated in the speech:
‘We must all work constructively together to set out what Parliament does want. That’s why I’m inviting MPs from all parties to come together to find a way forward. One that both delivers on the referendum, and can command the support of Parliament’.
These three sentences are interesting simply because of their logical flaws. The idea that herself and Jeremy Corbyn can work together is simply so unlikely that is provokes ridicule even among her own supporters. Similarly, the idea that all parties can work together and deliver on the referendum result is equally absurd, because the majority of MPs are Remainers, whilst the majority of the electorate voted to leave.
I suspect though that this speech, which was really quite unremarkable and could have been done via a press release rather than a prime time TV slot, was designed to instigate the next phase of stopping Brexit. By opening the doors for talks with other parties – whether they accept the invitation or not- she is shifting the momentum away from leaving the EU and moving it towards Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats – who want to remain.
Then just a day after the Prime Minister’s speech, it was revealed that the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, one of the most prominent Tory Remainers, had assured business leaders during a conference call that the ‘threat’ of a no-deal Brexit would be ended within days. It has been alleged that he did this in order to pre-empt a Cabinet meeting, in which his promise to those business leaders that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t happen would force the Cabinet’s hand.
Interestingly, on the same day that the news about Philip Hammond broke, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn delivered a speech to activists and the media, where he stated that he would consider a 2nd referendum to avoid the ‘disaster’ of a no-deal Brexit. He also said that a no-deal Brexit scenario must be taken off the table before any further negotiations could begin. The Prime Minister responded, saying that the Labour Leader’s demand was an ‘impossible condition’ – despite the fact her own Chancellor has assured business leaders the complete opposite.
Then, just a few hours later in the afternoon, it was reported that lawmakers had been shown a Government document stating that a 2nd Referendum on EU membership would take more than a year to organise. The fact that the document relating to a 2nd referendum was shown as a means of ‘finding a way forward on Brexit’ is a rather strong hint at the direction things are going in at Westminster. This comes just a day after Dominic Grieve tabled two Bills in the House of Commons which would initiate a 2nd Referendum.
At the moment though, it still seems that everything is still to play for, and things could go either way.