There is no way to do so without the approval of MPs – and there is no incentive for Tory rebels and the DUP to let her.
Could Theresa May avoid a crushing defeat on Tuesday’s meaningful vote by delaying it altogether? That’s the suggestion from 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady, who told Newsnight that he would welcome its postponement until there was clarity on whether the United Kingdom could quit the Northern Ireland backstop unilaterally.
“I think the most important thing is to have clarity about how we might remove ourselves from a backstop, Northern Ireland protocol situation if we were to enter into one in the future,” Brady said. “It’s having the answer to that question of substance that is most important, not the timing. So if that question can be answered in the course of the next few days then all well and good. If it can’t, then I certainly would welcome the vote being deferred until such time as we can answer that question.
It’s a striking intervention in several respects. The first is that by Brady’s standards it is a markedly political and unhelpful comment – we know that the backstop and the widespread aversion to it among Tory Brexiteers and the DUP is the root of Theresa May’s current predicament and her most acute political pain point. Even at the height of the European Research Group’s failed putsch last month, Brady – a Brexiteer – remained scrupulously loyal. That even he is going public with his unease bodes ill for the prospects of Downing Street keeping Tuesday’s defeat big, rather than very big.
The second is the premise of the question Brady is asking about the backstop. There’s already an abundance of clarity as far as the UK’s ability to exit it unilaterally is concerned: it doesn’t exist. That clarity has been provided repeatedly and at some length by the EU, Theresa May, and the legal advice from the attorney general, released yesterday. The question Brady wants answering was settled yonks ago in the only way Brussels and Dublin will allow it to be – that is, with the answer he doesn’t want to hear.
The third striking thing about Brady’s interview, however, is that he is the most senior Conservative yet to suggest on the record that the meaningful vote be postponed. It has been reported in recent days that several cabinet ministers, chief among them Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, have suggested its cancellation in a bid to avoid the political damage a heavy defeat would inflict. But none have so far suggested this publicly.
The problem for the growing camp of advocates for this scenario is that the vote – much like the backstop – can’t be willed away unilaterally by the prime minister. Changing the date and time of the vote will mean amending the programme motion that dictates its procedure, which would require a vote in the Commons. Labour MP Chris Bryant, one of the foremost procedural wonks on the green …read more
Source:: New Statesman