There are those in the Conservative Party so against Brexit that they are willing to gang up with the opposition to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal in order to secure a second referendum.
How many are willing to see this scenario through is hard to quantify — there is yet no deal — but the fact that lawmakers are discussing it semi-openly is a sign of how worried the prime minister should be.
“The idea of making support for the prime minister’s deal dependent on a people’s vote is one of a number of ideas being discussed at the moment,’’ opposition Labour lawmaker Ben Bradshaw said in an interview. “Support for a people’s vote is rising particularly among undeclared Tories – even those with leave constituencies.’’
Two high-profile Tory lawmakers confirmed the plan to Bloomberg, but declined to talk publicly because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for May. She has no majority in the House of Commons after gambling it away last year on an election bet to try and boost her numbers.
Her government insists rejection of her plan would mean the U.K. crashing out of the European Union next March without a deal. But there is push-back against that narrative.
Bradshaw said backing among Tory lawmakers is increasing because the deal May secures is unlikely to be very good, meaning they will be able to justify supporting a fresh referendum even in areas that were strongly pro-Brexit during the original 2016 referendum.
This fledgling rebellion from Tory rebels raises a hair-raising nightmare for May’s whip: those who oppose May’s plans because they want to stay close to the EU voting alongside Brexit believers such as Boris Johnson who want a clean break.
With the government flailing to find a compromise it can sell both in Brussels and at home, talk of a second referendum has resurfaced as way to break the impasse. The Labour Party continues to keep it open as option even as May continues to shoot it down almost daily.
The problem is that Tories are genuinely torn about it. Some worry a second vote would exacerbate the country’s divisions and would be an admission by Parliament is broken. In short, they haven’t made up their mind and might not until the last minute.