Nigel Hastilow: Not even a World Cup win can save Theresa May now
A non-Brexit Brexit plan?
Of all the crises of Theresa May’s crisis-ridden Premiership, this is the worst.
David Davis’s resignation threatened Mrs May’s political survival and the whole Brexit process. Boris Johnson may have delivered the killer blow.
To lose one Brexiteer Cabinet Minister is a misfortune; to lose two in the space of 24 hours is disastrous.
Last Friday, she seemed to have strong-armed her Brexiteer Ministers into line, forcing them to back her non-Brexit Brexit plan. Michael Gove even acted as cheerleader during the Cabinet’s day at Chequers.
Yet, as Jeremy Corbyn says, the Chequers agreement is now a ‘shattered truce’. Mr Davis decided he could not fight for a deal he didn’t believe in.
Now Boris has followed suit. Is this a principled stand or the launch of his leadership bid? Or both? It took him some time to resign. No doubt political calculations, rather than principles, played a key part.
After all, on Friday he acquiesced in Mrs May’s plans – even though the EU probably won’t accept her watered-down solution and pro-Brexit backbenchers led by Jacob Rees-Mogg won’t stand for it.
Mrs May is offering the worst of all worlds; thraldom to the EU’s rules and regulations, subjugation to the European Court, continued migration and billions of pounds paid as tribute to Brussels.
But will she be the Prime Minister who secures this deal? Mrs May’s supporters insist that, if there is a challenge, she will fight on even if she has a majority of one.
That won’t work.
Mrs Thatcher had to go even after she won a leadership contest with a majority of 52. And Theresa is no Maggie.
But if the PM is a goner, what then?
It’s unlikely Boris will succeed her because he is such a divisive figure but, whoever takes over, the Tories’ divide over Europe may become an unbridgeable gulf.
It could destroy the party. It would certainly be enough to force a General Election which Labour would probably win, especially if Corbyn promised another referendum on EU membership.
This would be Brussels’ greatest anti-democratic victory yet. After a referendum and an election where the two main parties both pledged to secure Brexit, we may be told to get it right next time.
Whatever happens, it looks like we’re leaving the EU in name only.
And not even a World Cup win can save Mrs May now.