This is not my scenario. It’s from the deputy political editor of the Spectator. Katy Balls
There’s a joke going around the various warring tribes in the Tory leadership contest. They might not win this time, they tell each other, but not to worry: ‘We’ll all meet again in November.’
The scenario? The 31 October deadline passes not with Britain leaving the European Union but with a crisis and election that will be won by Jeremy Corbyn. After that, the Tories will in a few months go through the whole process again — this time to pick an opposition leader.
Some MPs more optimistic but no one is sure how this will be resolved. The EU is refusing to change its Brexit deal, parliament is full of anti-no deal MPs. Add to mix a new leader ruling out any delay to Brexit and either get a last-min breakthrough or a collapse.
As one MP puts it: ‘Despite all the noise about moderate Tories coming out for Brexiteers, the parliamentary arithmetic [for a Brexit solution] has not changed.’ Only an election could change it.
Renegotiation? Gavin Barwell poured cold water on the idea at Cabinet saying European holidays mean a deal could only be negotiated between 2 September and 31 October with just 24 sitting days in parliament.
Not everyone around table convinced. One cabinet minister dismisses Barwell’s warning as proof he is a ‘processologist’ who overlooked the fact that a PM can go no deal. ‘The problem with no deal last time was not that MPs would not do it, it was that the PM would not do it.’
But MPs believe they can stop a no deal – they place their faith in John Bercow, the Speaker, who has said the idea parliament wouldn’t get a say in the matter is ‘for the birds’.
The clearest route to stopping no deal is for MPs to vote no confidence in the government and thereby trigger a general election. Or the new prime minister might call a general election of his or her own accord were parliament to block their Brexit plans.
The gamble? Outraged Leave voters will restore Tory majority. For many in party, this is seen as less dangerous than delaying Brexit. ‘To delay would be death by a thousand cuts,’ says one cabinet minister. ‘A general election on a clear Brexit platform is not the worst option.’
The Conservative party is out of good options and must now choose the least worst. Many of Johnson’s supporters privately admit that they are backing him because they see him as the best man for an inevitable election: the leader to beat Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage.