The Telegraph reports:
a bill to change the day of our EU exit and bind the Government into a permanent customs union
If I had any cartooning skill then right now I’d be drawing a cartoon of Parliament trying to force the UK into a customs union, while the ERG are about to yank the plug labelled ‘No Confidence Vote’, or maybe ‘Early Election’, from the socket. Hackneyed yes, but it sums up the current situation.
This is what the ERG need to do if the government, or the Remainers in Parliament, try to pull any stunts like that. Vote against the government in a no-confidence motion. That will paralyze Parliament for two weeks, after which an early election must be held if no majority can be formed. Or if March 29 passes in that time, vote for the government again in another confidence motion once March 29 is past. During those two weeks, and during any election campaign, no government business can be conducted, so No Deal will happen by default.
(If the two weeks is up before March 29, then another possibility is for the ERG to vote for the government in another confidence vote just before the early election has to happen, but with the threat of another no confidence vote still hanging over the government if anyone tries to pull another fast one.)
There are two issues here, though. Would the ERG have the guts to do this? It might rip the Conservatives in two (although it’s amazing how the Tories can manage to survive almost anything and still come crawling out from under their rocks when things have settled down a bit, so I wouldn’t bet on that). The ERG would be considered traitors to their party by many MPs, although the majority of party members would perhaps be onside.
The other issue, which no-one seems to have considered, so hopefully it is too far-fetched, is whether Labour, or enough Labour Remainers, would temporarily team up with the government at some stage during the two weeks after the government loses the no confidence motion. Would they decide to vote for the government in a subsequent confidence motion so that the government can ask the EU for an extension to Brexit?
If that happened it would be one of the most extraordinary happenings in the history of Parliament. The major opposition party would vote against the government in a No Confidence motion, but then would vote for them a week or so later in order that the government could defeat its own rebels, who were voting against it, and as a result keep us in the EU.
I’ve got to hope that that’s too much even for Labour, who seem more concerned with inflicting damage on the Tories than with preventing Brexit. But could, say, fifty Labour Remainers rebel and vote with the government, which may be enough to get the government back in power before Matrch 29? That would certainly cause chaos for Labour, and would most likely involve the party splitting into two. But betrayal is in the air at the moment, so nothing can be ruled out.