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16 November 2018

Theresa May warns Conservative Party chairs that her deal can’t be renegotiated

The Prime Minister's remarks to local party bosses underline the chances that the UK may leave the EU without a deal.

By Stephen Bush

Theresa May has told Conservative Party association chairs that there is little chance that her deal will be renegotiated even if it were to be voted down by MPs, as the Prime Minister bids to impress upon her party the high stakes of voting through her deal.

In two paraphrased transcripts sent round by association chairs to their local parties, and seen by the New Statesman, association chairs grilled May on the proposals in a telephone conference organised by the party leadership. The particular areas of concern highlight that Conservative MPs may come back from their constituencies more, not less, likely to vote against the deal as the questions raised by association chairs largely concerned the future of fishing and farming, the role of the European Court and the potential for the UK-wide backstop to last forever.

That the Prime Minister has essentially dismissed the idea that the deal can be renegotiated to any great degree increases the chances that the cabinet’s remaining Brexiteers, who are all seeking to re-open aspects of the accord, may walk out, further complicating the legislative arithmetic and increasing the chances of a no-deal exit.

The range of questions largely eschewed the issue of May’s future, although several local party chairs confirmed that many of the questions put forward by their local members included straight-forward requests that the Prime Minister resign.

But even the policy questions highlighted the perhaps impossible task facing May in passing the deal. Constituency associations want more detail on the final relationship – an easy concession for the EU27 as the sections relating to the final relationship are not legally binding. But this is also the section that most concerns the opposition parties, concessions necessary to win opposition support would involve increasing the closeness of the links between the EU27 and the UK in the final relationship, while keeping even the existing Tory supporters on board would involve decreasing them. No deal may be inevitable.

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