Theresa May has to encounter intense tension from remain-minded Conservative MPs to eventually face down hardline Brexiters in her party post the planned restatement of a departure strategy which was permitted before two weeks by the Commons was defeated.
Abstentions by MPs from the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) has played a key part in supervising the government motion voted down after the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, was not able to persuade them, which did not take a no-deal departure off the table.
While May loyalists scrambled to play down the significanece of the vote, privately MPs and even some ministers were raging at the ERG and insistent the prime minister had to alter course in the upcoming days.
“There is a degree of wishful thinking going on that the EU can ever do enough to satisfy the Brexit extremists,” one minister said.
“She wants to try to square the circle and it’s just not looking likely. She has a choice: seek the agreement across the House or the country will be out without a deal. They don’t compromise, they never have.”
After the another promised government Brexit motion at the end of the month, numerous ministers are known to be considering voting for amendments that could end no deal or extend article 50, like one proposed earlier by Yvette Cooper.
“[May] is worried about splitting the party but the party could split either way,” the minister said. “She should be worried about our side of the party. In parliament there is nowhere else for the ERG to go but there is potentially somewhere else for the remaining to go, we are more likely to trigger a realignment.”
A cabinet source said: “Once again the ERG have made life hell for the prime minister and put their own fantasies in the way of pragmatic politics.”
One former minister stated the “fake consensus” in the party around the Brady amendment had been unveiled by Wednesday night’s vote. “It was never going to last. She has to pick. Either she’s serious about doing a no deal if necessary, in which case she’s a Ukip prime minister, and keeps the ERG onside but fractures the rest of the party, or she rules it out and she’s a Conservative PM but loses the ERG. At the moment she’s nowhere and pleasing no one. It’s about choices. And she won’t make one.”