Theresa May prolongs her Brexit crisis as she insists nothing has changed

The Prime Minister maintained that her Brexit deal was in the national interest and “delivers on the priorities of the British people”. But ever fewer MPs agree with her. 

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Nothing has changed. That, in short, is Theresa May’s holding line. Despite a string of ministerial resignations and an imminent confidence vote in her leadership, the Prime Minister has signalled her intention to fight on.

Addressing reporters at Downing Street, May – who appears to be occupying a different plane of reality to the rest of Westminster – insisted that her deal was in the national interest and still represented “a Brexit that delivers on the priorities of the British people”.

She might think so, but as far as its chances of passing parliament are concerned, that is irrelevant: what matters is that the DUP, several dozen of her Tory colleagues and the vast majority of the Labour Party disagree with her.

May’s wilful refusal to engage with that fundamental truth stood out. She repeatedly insisted that she was in the business of taking the right decisions, rather than the easy ones, and again attempted to frame her deal as the only one that could possibly meet her own red lines, and protect jobs and the Union. This Brexit, or no Brexit. Her survival is its survival.

Despite an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary, she has staked everything on convincing people who have hitherto shown absolutely no side of wanting – or, as far as their political self-interest goes, needing – to be convinced. The fundamental irony of this approach is that it is likely to only strengthen the resolve of her internal critics, hasten a leadership challenge, and see the time and energy of parliament wasted on voting on a deal that will inevitably be rejected. And all that will do is prolong a crisis that, far from protecting the national interest, looks increasingly likely to end in Britain crashing out without a deal.

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent.