I'm sure Donald Tusk is a very nice man and kind to animals, but the now-notorious tweet above just looks idiotic to me - unless of course he actually wants a no deal Brexit for some reason, and is trying out a touch of reverse psychology. All he's succeeded in doing is vastly increasing the paranoia among Brexit supporters about a dastardly Brussels plot to overturn the 2016 referendum, which will pile the pressure on Tory MPs to take a hard line over the coming weeks, and to ensure that Britain leaves the EU on 29th March at all costs, etc, etc.
I've found over recent weeks that when I'm trying to work out what will happen next with Brexit, a useful starting point is to look at whatever Mike "impartial Lib Dem election expert" Smithson is predicting, because it can usually be pretty safely ruled out as a possibility. Before Christmas, he famously gave us the all-time classic of: "The DUP will vote for Theresa May's deal because they're scared of a united Ireland. Don't worry, I've thought about this for three seconds so you don't have to." Undeterred by being proved catastrophically wrong on that one (who would ever have guessed?) he's now claiming that Theresa May is about to back a People's Vote, and will use the drive for cross-party consensus as her excuse for the U-turn. For good measure, he adds that this means the ERG's strategy was "not very smart" - which presumably implies that a better "strategy" for them would have been the same highly sophisticated one he expected from the DUP if they wanted to avoid a united Ireland, ie. to pack up, go home, and stop making such a damn fuss.
Hmmm. I suspect the ERG will want to wait to see if Smithson's prediction is actually correct before giving up on life completely. The reality is that last night's vote did increase the chances of a People's Vote, but it also increased the chances of no deal. This is a high stakes game, and anyone who claims to know for sure which side is going to win it is deluding themselves. One thing I am confident about, though, is that if a People's Vote does happen, Theresa May will not be responsible for helping to bring it about (or not intentionally, anyway). OK, we know she lies every day of her life, so her repeated insistence that she won't back a referendum can't be taken at face value. But we can rely on what we've learned about how she will measure success or failure in her tenure as Prime Minister. She wants her place in history to be the delivery of an orderly Brexit, and if that really isn't possible she would settle for just delivering Brexit. A People's Vote would put Brexit at severe risk, so if forced to choose between a referendum and pretty much any alternative, she would always choose the alternative.
If you're trying to work out what the "May lie" was last night, I think the most promising candidate was her assurance that she is not trying to run down the clock. I would not be at all surprised if running down the clock is the exact purpose of the forthcoming cross-party talks. It's very hard to believe that she has any intention of reaching an understanding with Labour - yes, there might be a natural parliamentary majority for a much softer Brexit, but if she went down that road she would leave the most hard-line Brexiteers feeling they have nothing left to lose by breaking away from the Conservative party, which in turn could bring down the government. I suspect she'll be happy enough to look like she's doing something urgently, but to no great effect - with the intended outcome being a miracle last-minute parliamentary approval for something approximating to the current deal, or a "nothing to do with me guv" no deal by default.
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