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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

ERG attempted to kill her – now PM must return the compliment

The manic, swivel eyed, self-obsessed European Research Group pressed their nuclear button this week. And although they have seriously wounded Theresa May, their failure to end her premiership should now embolden her to put them in a box and get on with concluding the Brexit nightmare the UK has been haunted with since 2016.

Having survived the ‘no confidence’ vote by 200 votes to 117, the prime minister did not even get the courtesy of a nights respite from Jacob Rees- Mogg and his cohorts, and it was beyond ironic to see the Old Etonian bleating about May “soldiering on” because she only received 63% of the vote, whilst for two years he has been telling ‘remoaners’ 52% was enough to justify his bombastic approach to delivering “the will of the people”.

If it hadn’t dawned on her before, May must surely now realise that only by crashing out of the EU in the most unsatisfactory fashion possible will satisfy a rump of her parliamentary party that have held successive Conservative Party leaders, and the country, to ransom for far too long.

The chances of her getting any further concessions from the EU now are, at best, minimal. That she went in to those talks with both hands tied behind her back was entirely of her own making, and we cannot blame the EU for that. She triggered Article 50 too soon. She agreed to negotiate our exit before we negotiated a trade deal. And she created totally impractical ‘red- line’s’.

We can’t turn back the clock, so we are stuck with three options. Her deal, which is universally criticised as a bad deal, no deal, which, among anyone with an ounce of common Johnny, is accepted as being a disaster, or no Brexit.

If we accept that the first two options cannot carry parliament, that leaves us with a ‘people’s vote’ being the only way to break this tortuous impasse. May could, perhaps, recognise that her deal has no chance of getting through the commons and announce that she is going directly to the country with a fresh poll offering what she has negotiated against Remaining in the EU.

That would truly shoot the Brextreemists fox and at least provide the country with some light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.

The only other practical alternative that I can see would be the creation of a whole new plan based on the ‘Norway’ model that has been widely discussed by MPs from across the chamber. It enables us to maintain many of the trade benefits that membership of the EU contains, but also ties us to many of the EU rules and regulations that ultra- Leavers hate.

Whatever the path the government now decide to take, it is apparent that an extension of the negotiations is necessary to absolutely avoid the thing business fears most – no deal. That would be another nail in the ERG coffin.

It has been another embarrassing week for British politics. But at least we now know that the rabid Jacob Rees-Mogg’s bark is far harsher than his bite – it’s now time for May and her cabinet to put him and his colleagues down.

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