The odds are still against it, of course. It's probably significant that the plan is reported to have the endorsement of "Theresa May's team" rather than May herself, and we know there are also strong forces in the Cabinet tugging her in completely the opposite direction, and towards an acceptance of No Deal. Even if the plan was to be put into operation, there must at least be a question mark over whether the addition of a Remain option would command a majority in the Commons. The assumption so far has been that the parliamentary arithmetic on a People's Vote would be very tight, and logically exactly the same ought to apply to any Remain amendment (although perhaps the government conceding the principle of a referendum would embolden more Tory Remainers to rebel). And having repeatedly promised that Brexit will happen bang on schedule on 29th March, it would be hard for May to call a referendum on her deal knowing that a referendum campaign would eat up much of the remaining three months, and that she'd inevitably have to request an extension of Article 50 simply to have enough time to actually implement the deal if the public gave her the go-ahead. But perhaps she could put on an indignant voice and blame a short delay on "saboteurs", or whatever.
Then there's the problem that the leaking of a plan like this can in itself make the whole thing less likely to happen. Brexiteers now know where the danger lies, and May could find herself under intense pressure to explicitly rule out any Deal v No Deal referendum over the coming days. If it ever looks like something might come of it, though, I do wonder if the hard-core Brexiteers could look towards the nuclear option of approaching Labour and indicating they might vote against the government on a motion of no confidence, or at least abstain.
A lot of people have asked why there would be any problem getting a no confidence motion passed, given that the number of Tory rebels required would be quite small. The answer is simple - in most parliamentary votes, Tory MPs have the option of voting against the government without facing any terrible consequences, but confidence votes are completely different. Even a non-authorised abstention on a confidence vote would lead to an automatic withdrawal of the whip, which in turn makes it impossible to stand as a Tory candidate at the next election. So unless you're someone like Douglas Carswell, with enough of a personal vote that you could hold your seat regardless of party label, you'd be looking at career death. That was why the Maastricht rebels in the 1990s all instantly fell into line as soon as the government tied the issue to a vote of confidence. They of course justified it to themselves as a principled decision - Bill Cash said he was damned if he would hand the Maastricht ratification process over to a Labour government who would sign Britain up to a "federal superstate". And there was a small grain of truth in that - polling in 1993/4 left little room for doubt that Labour would win a snap election.
No such excuse is available this time, because it's anyone's guess who would come out on top in an election held over the next few weeks. And in any case, is it just possible that the prospect of Brexit being cancelled is such a big deal for some MPs that they might, just this once, be prepared to put their careers second, and their principles first?
It might not seem immediately obvious what they would have to gain by triggering an election, given that there is so little to choose between May and Corbyn on Brexit. But in fact there could be a few things -
* With parliament dissolved for several weeks, any attempt to legislate for a referendum could be severely interrupted, with the clock still ticking down towards the 29th March deadline.
* May and the rest of the Tory leadership would be forced to write a manifesto that appeals to the Leave vote that the party is now so heavily reliant on in elections. They might find themselves making cast-iron promises that Brexit will definitely happen, and that it will happen on time, and that the backstop won't be permanent, etc, etc. OK, they wouldn't be the first politicians to betray a promise within days or weeks of winning an election, but it's never a comfortable thing to do.
* Any substantial seat gains for the Tories would probably lead to an increase in the number of Leave-supporting MPs in the Commons (although they'd still be in the minority).
* There would be scope for a tactical voting drive, with websites directing Brexiteers towards the candidate in their constituency that is most likely to vote for a 'real' Brexit. In some cases that will be a Tory, in a very few seats it might be a sitting Labour MP like Kate Hoey, and in others it could be a UKIP or Faragist candidate. Usually that sort of targeting has only a very marginal effect, but given the passions that Brexit is arousing, it might just be different this time.
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