Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
26 November 2018

If even Michael Fallon is opposed, Theresa May’s Brexit plan will lose by a landslide

The senior Tory’s intervention highlights the difficulty the PM will have in finding a plan B that will keep her party together. 

By Patrick Maguire

Former defence secretary Michael Fallon made his first contribution to a Commons debate on Brexit since leaving government this afternoon — and its content augured incredibly badly for Theresa May. 

Attacking the withdrawal agreement as a “huge gamble”, Fallon witheringly asked the Prime Minister whether it was really sensible for the UK to pay the EU £39bn and surrender its vote and veto in Brussels with no guarantee of securing the future trade terms it wants. 

Though he resigned in some disgrace over accusations of sexual harassment last November, Fallon is one of the most senior Tories on the backbenches, so his words will carry some weight. They also matter as he is broadly representative of the sort of backbench Tory — outwardly loyal and never excessively unhelpful to the government for reasons of decorum and, though sceptical, not especially doctrinaire on the EU — and it was widely assumed he would vote for the deal. 

I understand that Fallon’s criticisms of the deal are even stronger (he has made clear to friends that he has very strong reservations). Nor, despite his almost Remainy line of argument, is he going to join some other recent departures from May’s Cabinet in backing a new referendum. So not only does his intervention today underline the shallowness of support for the withdrawal agreement beyond the government payroll, but it also highlights the difficulty May will have in finding a plan B that will keep her party together. 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery