Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Her voice may have faltered but Theresa May still on her feet and hanging in there

Theresa May leaves after her deal was defeated
Theresa May leaves after her deal was defeated
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Theresa May's dying voice is a perfect metaphor for the malaise that is currently paralysing British politics over Brexit.

In the House of Commons last night, the Prime Minister could barely speak as she outlined reasons for backing her renegotiated Brexit plan to unimpressed MPs.

And after that failed, she croaked out details of votes on a no deal Brexit today and extending Article 50 tomorrow.

It was impossible not to look at Mrs May and think she should be wrapped up in bed with a hot water bottle and a cup of honey lemon tea, rather than fighting the Brexit war that has no end.

The two votes this week won't change the choice that inevitably must be made. Extending Article 50 is likely to buy just two months' time. Decisions may be delayed but they will still have to be taken sooner or later.

In a statement yesterday that will have raised smiles among its opponents, the DUP rounded on Brussels for being intransigent. Oh the irony!

Yet it's difficult to dispute the logic of the party's assertion that taking no deal off the table is a strategic blunder for UK negotiators which will weaken their hand further in future discussions with the EU.

Sign In

But the DUP's 10 MPs and their European Research Group friends are in a minority on this, and many cabinet ministers - including perhaps the Prime Minister herself - are expected to vote against no deal today.

It is only advisory and not binding yet it surely exposes the bluff that no deal is truly the Government's default position.

If an extension of Article 50 goes beyond May, or June at the very latest, then the UK will have to hold EU elections. The longer any delay, the more we drift into second referendum territory.

Even though Mrs May narrowed the margin of her defeat from 230 to 149 votes, she remains in a deeply humiliating position.

Those Tory backbenchers who switched to support her did not do so out of any conviction of the merits of her Brexit plan. Indeed, MP Steve Double went as far as saying he was voting for this "t**d of a deal" because it was "the best t**d we've got".

The Prime Minister had billed last night's Brexit vote as one of historic proportions, yet there was little dramatic delivery. The only woman who broke records yesterday was jockey Rachael Blackmore, who guided home the sole favourite to win on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival by a majestic 16 lengths.

The bookies had known Mrs May was a beaten docket from the start with Paddy Power setting the odds of a Commons' defeat for the Prime Minister at 1/100.

In terms of where we go from here, they're pretty sure we won't be leaving without a deal this month (9/2); that Article 50 will be extended (1/7); and that there won't be a hard border (1/7).

And there are reasons for optimism for Mrs May. The bookmakers put the chances of her ceasing to be Prime Minister this month at 3/1 - and if she survives April then the odds of her being ousted rise to 10-1.

Her big rival Boris Johnson is only 15/2 to become the next occupant of No.10. The Prime Minister is by no means a racing certainty but, voice fading or not, she is still on her feet and hanging in.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph