Is calling an election Theresa May’s last hope at staying in control of Brexit?

There is a fear that the government is about to become a government in name only. 

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MPs have voted to seize control of the legislative timetable and will hold indicative votes on which, if any, way out of the Brexit deadlock could command a majority in parliament.

Theresa May, however, has told MPs that she will not be bound by a parliamentary vote that recommends any version of Brexit other than that contained within the Conservatives’ 2017 manifesto. But the reality is that if MPs want to they can take further control of the parliamentary process and pass actually legally binding measures to force the government to negotiate a different Brexit end state – or no Brexit at all.

The fear in Downing Street is that in voting once to assert itself and overturn almost a century of executive control of the legislative timetable, MPs have “broken the taboo” on doing so again and will find it easier to do it again a second time and to seize more meaningful powers for themselves.

The fear that the government will lose power and become a government in name only is why some are talking up the prospect of a general election. But the problem the government has is that by law an election campaign takes at least 25 working days. We have just 17 days until the end of the short extension, any longer requires a further extension and holding European elections.

So the government’s way of avoiding losing control of the Brexit process, and ending up with a hefty delay to the Brexit process...would be to have a lengthy delay to Brexit or have a no-deal exit midway through an election.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.