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19 November 2018

Whether or not Theresa May goes, her Brexit deal is a long way off the Labour support it needs

The Prime Minister may soon end up wishing the ERG had the numbers to achieve a no confidence vote after all. 

By Stephen Bush

Is Theresa May safe? It depends on the paper you read. Brexit ultras are either wildly adrift of where they need to be to get 48 names or on the brink of collecting them, depending on who you choose to believe.

The reality is that only one person knows what the state of play is – Graham Brady, the chair of the backbench 1922 committee – and he ain’t telling. 

We know that the list of MPs who have publicly said that they have signed and sent letters calling for a confidence vote in May is now at 25, but, rather like clicking “attending” on a Facebook invite, we don’t know if that really means very much. 

​But at risk of sounding like a stuck record, May’s future doesn’t matter all that much compared to what happens to the United Kingdom and the Brexit deal. Twenty five Conservative MPs, plus the ten DUP MPs, means that the government needs to find 28 votes from somewhere among the opposition parties. Add Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP who has promised his constituents to vote for the deal, and they need 27 votes. Sylvia Hermon, the independent Unionist MP, has said she might vote for the deal – so optimistically, that’s 26 votes from the Labour Party to avoid being defeated over the deal.  The Labour Leavers aren’t going to play. So what’s left?

At that point, May might be forgiven for wishing that the ERG had the numbers to get rid of her after all. 

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Correction: Originally this piece referred to Stephen Lloyd as a Eurosceptic. My apologies – Lloyd has pledged his constituents that he will vote against the deal, but is not himself a Eurosceptic.