As defeat followed demolish, the Brexit masterplan of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings came untie, torn apart by Tory rebellion and cross-party collaboration

At 11 am last-place Tuesday a group of senior Tory MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit mustered outside the cabinet room at No 10 for a has met with the “ministers “. The former chancellor Philip Hammond, the ex-justice secretary David Gauke and the former business secretary Greg Clark were among them. Along with other Tory MPs, including Sir Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve, and Labour’s Keir Starmer and Hilary Benn, they had expended their summertime vacations reaping up a bill they belief would thrust Boris Johnson to seek an extension to Brexit if he could not strike a new deal with the EU by mid-October.

Johnson had held before and since becoming prime minister that he would never ask the EU for another postponement and would take the UK out of the EU on 31 October” bargain or no cope”, “do or die”. To restriction the amount of parliamentary time the rebels would have to pass the legislation, the primeminister had already announced he would shut parliament down for five weeks from next week ahead of a new Queen’s communication on 14 October. But the cross-party alliance opposed to no treat had moved fast in response, and accelerated their plans. As they chatted before the satisfy, they were confident they had both the numbers to get the bill on the statute book and the time to do so before parliament was closed.

Outside in Whitehall, and down the road in Parliament Square, a constant rucku of dissent and counter-protest rang out from Remainers and Leavers alike. It was parliament’s first day back after the long July and August recess- and the controversial prorogation bulletin. Police had separated beings on different backs of the Brexit divide as best they could but still arguments broke out between them on the pavement. Remainers sung “stop the coup” while Leavers carried placards saying ” Traitor Parliament” and” Boris. No Deal is Ideal “. Opposite the entryway to the Commons one of the protesters, Dr John Dinnen, said he had woken up at 2am so worried about what Brexit would mean for peace on the island of Ireland, where he was born, that he had decided to get a train from Hereford to protest about a possible no slew.” I feel very strongly about it ,” he said.

When the No 10 meeting got under way, the former Tory diplomats- members of the so-called Gaukeward Squad- questioned Johnson what proposals he had to break the deadlock with Brussels and secure a new agreement to stop the UK crashing out in less than two months’ day. If he certainly had such a plan, and it proved acceptable to the EU and parliament, they made clear that their efforts to force him to go to Brussels to ask for another delay would be unnecessary and everyone would be happy.

” He had a folder on the desk with him and pointed at it, suggesting the plans were inside ,” said one informant at the convene. The MPs then inquired whether the folder’s contents had been presented to EU captains.” His response was that the EU would only really begin negotiating in earnest when it was sure the UK was serious about no slew ,” said other sources.” And the PM was clear the EU was not yet sure that we were serious about no treat so nothing had been sent to them yet .”

The message Johnson wanted to convey was that the MPs’ attempts to block no transaction were taking the heat off Brussels. During an hour of discussions, Clark asked for some specific details on particular issues and Johnson said someone from its term of office would win back to him. Later the working day, Clark received a phone call from Johnson’s closest aide, Dominic Cummings, which failed to provide answers. Instead Clark felt himself on the end of a foul-mouthed tirade.

According to roots aware of the exchange, Cummings bellowed at him, saying:” When are you MPs going to realise that we are leaving on 31 October ?” before adding:” We are going to fucking purge you .”

Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons for the first time on Tuesday. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/ AP

Just a few hours after the fulfill, Johnson formed his first speech in the chamber as prime minister. Reporting on the G7 summit in Biarritz, he struck a different style about the Brexit talks.” It is simply not true to say we are not making progress ,” he said.” I returned from the G7 with real momentum in the Brexit discussions .” This operate reverse is not simply to the impression he had given to rebel MPs earlier, but likewise to a report that day in the Daily Telegraph which had quoted Cummings as having admitted in a private gratify that negotiations with the EU were” a imitation “.

As Johnson spoke, the Tory MP Phillip Lee, a Remainer, spanned the flooring of the house to join the Liberal Democrats on the resist benches. In an jiffy Johnson had lost his majority; his ability to govern was draining away. Lee and the rebels could see that the Prime Minister was putting out one set of messages in private and another in public.” The only conclusion to be drawn was that he was actually planning for No Deal ,” said one of the rebels. Lee wrote in his acceptance letter that Brexit had changed the Conservative party into a” restricted sect” that had” increasingly become infected with the twin cancers of populism and English nationalism “.

Later, during a debate that evening on the rebel plan to take control of parliamentary business, the leader of the Commons, Jacob-Rees Mogg, reclined on the government frontbench. The epitome led viral within hours. He was accused of being” insolent of the members of this house” by the Green MP Caroline Lucas.

The photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg relaxing on the figurehead benches rapidly ran viral. Photograph: AFP/ Getty Images

When the result of the vote on the Tory rebel plan was announced, the opposition benches spewed while Tory Remainers tried to control their glee. The government had lost by 328 to 301 referendums. Twenty-one Conservative MPs had eluded their defendant by voting to allow debate on a invoice that would action their own prime minister to ask the EU for an extension- which “hes had” promised time and again never to do.

As MPs left the chamber, the purge Cummings had threatened began. All rebel MPs, including the father of the house, Kenneth Clarke, and Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, had the beat withdrawn, and were told they would not be allowed to stand as Conservatives at the upcoming elections. The ex-serviceman Tory MP Roger Gale said Johnson was ” in danger of tearing the party apart” and gossips spread that cabinet ministers, including Amber Rudd, were seething and considering how long they could remain in the government.

It was clear by the evening that part one of the Johnson/ Cummings masterplan – to use prorogation coupled with menaces – had not only miscarried spectacularly but had backfired. One of those people who purged, the former foreign office minister Alistair Burt says:” I have never seen a government strategy so misjudged , nor miscarry so promptly, as that devised in Downing Street since late July .”

The treatment of grandees such as Clarke and Soames had disturbed Tory MPs of all Brexit persuasions, even some of the most dedicated Leavers, such as Sir Edward Leigh, who singer his disquiet at a session of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers. The mavericks said the behaviour of No 10 was swelling their numbers , not reducing them so had been entirely counter-productive as well as deep divisive.

On the Tory benches on Wednesday- a era No 10 had set aside for Sajid Javid’s spending review, with its numerous promises to increase funding of community service- purged MPs rose one after the other to criticize the gradual deterioration of a once-tolerant and internationalist Conservative party.

There was defiance and dark humour. Soames was psychological and scathing in turns, saying he was sad his long career as a Conservative MP was ending in this way, before noting that Johnson’s” serial disloyalty” in the past” had been such an inspiration to many of us “. Burt expected” if we are being purged now, who is next ?” and dedicated that the anti-EU obsessions his party had developed” may have abridged my future but it will not rob me of what I speculate. I will walk out of here gazing up at the sky , not at my shoes .”

That evening’s first voting time the “Benn bill” transferred at 7pm by 327 and 299. Barring troubles in the Noblemen it was heading on to the statute book.

On exclusively the second day of parliamentary business under Johnson’s premiership he had suffered two demolishes and lost his majority. Ian Blackford, governor of the SNP at Westminster, held the view that” this must be the shortest-lived honeymoon in parliamentary record “.

Incredibly, some Conservative started further, predicting that Johnson was cornered and could be finished as PM. He had promised never to extend the Brexit deadline but had failed to stop a brand-new rule being legislated that was about to force him to do so.” I don’t like to say this, and I scarcely dare, but I think it could be checkmate ,” said one of the leading Tory rebels.

He was right to be cautious. Johnson, Cummings, and No 10′ s is chairman of legislative circumstances, Nikki da Costa, might not have succeeded yet, but they had another scheme up their sleeves which they belief would still scupper the maverick plans.

At 7.51 pm on Wednesday, Johnson rose in the Commons to move a gesture” that there shall be an early general election” on 15 October. If parliament were to vote in favour in sufficient numbers, and the Tories were to win the election with a big enough majority, Johnson could then repeal the Benn bill and avoid having to ask for an extension. The influence, it appears to be, was on the Labour lead Jeremy Corbyn.

Johnson told MPs it would be inconceivable for the Labour party leader to refuse a chance to go to the country.” He has demanded democratic elections for two years while blocking Brexit. He said only two days ago that he would support an election…is he now going to say the public cannot be allowed an election to decide which of us sorts out this mess ?” Labour and the other opposition parties, including the SNP, had, nonetheless, concurred their rows. They would back a general election- but not on Johnson’s terms and not on 15 October.

Instead they would vote against the motion and say an election should be called when the Benn bill had received royal assent or, better still, when Johnson had actually asked the EU for an extension. Corbyn responded to the election call with travesty.” The furnish of the election today is a bit like the offering of an apple to Snow White from the Wicked Queen, because what the Prime Minister is offering is not an apple or even democratic elections, but the poison of no slew .”

To force an election, Johnson needed a two-thirds majority of all MPs to back him. But Labour MPs abstained en masse. The make when it came at 9.21 pm was 298 in favour of its adoption and 56 against. The referendum gambit had flunked, Johnson had lost again, and everyone wondered what on earth he had been able to do next. In the early hours of the next day- Thursday- depleted peers who is currently opposed to the Benn bill gave up their strives at filibusteringin the House of Lords and the last hurdle in the way of the Benn bill had been cleared. It is expected to gain royal assent early this week.

The headlines in the Tory-supporting articles weeping into Corbyn. The Daily Mail affirmed:” Corbyn chickens out of democratic elections “. But it was the prime minister who was in far deeper trouble. And things were to get worse. Shortly after 11 pm, the prime minister’s brother Jo, a Remainer, resigned from the cabinet, saying he had been” wept between category love and the national interest “.

Johnson speaks in West Yorkshire on Thursday; he was criticised for using police cadets for political roles. Photograph: Reuters

On a trip to Morley, in West Yorkshire, the “ministers ” was harangued in front of TV cameras by occupants, with one accusing it of “playing games” when he” should be reflected in Brussels negotiating”, and another telling him:” Please leave my city “. On the same trip north he established speech in Wakefield, with sequences of police cadets lined up behind, announced today that he “d rather”” die in a ditch” than ask for an extension to the UK’s EU membership. The decision to use police cadets for political purposes was widely criticised as senior Tories, including some in the Cabinet, called for a change of strategy. At a dinner that night, the former Conservative prime minister John Major announced on Johnson to” get ridded” of Cummings and reinstate the MPs he had suspended, without whom” we will cease to be a broad-based national party, and be seen as a mean-minded sect “.

This weekend, Johnson and his advisers suffered another blow: Amber Rudd cease as occupation and pensions secretary and renounced the Tory whip. She quoth similar concerns that Gauke’s rebels had raised, that she no longer believed Johnson wanted to get a deal with the EU. His decision to withdraw the whip from the 21 mavericks was ” an attack on respectability and democracy “.

Amber Rudd quitted as toil and pensions secretary and discontinue the Tory whip on Saturday. Photograph: AFP/ Getty Images

They are hopeless to find ways to trigger a general election in which they can attack Labour and the other opposition parties for blocking the” will of the people “. Polls this weekend, including the latest Opinium survey for the Observer , picturing a 10 -point lead for the Conservative, will encourage them to hang on and fight.

No 10 insists that the prime minister will neither quit nor ask for an extension to Brexit. But doing neither would entail Johnson being in contempt of court and having to quit, say lawyers.

There are suggestions that he will try on Monday to call a vote of no confidence in his own government in an attempt to force a general election, and expect Tory MPs to back that action. But would the speaker, John Bercow, give such a move that was clearly aimed at achieving a purpose other than that stated in the motion itself? Another mind moved by sources close to Johnson yesterday was that he would try to force the EU to expel the UK by refusing to nominate a commissioner, a tactic Downing Street seems to think “ve brought” the EU to its knees- but which Brussels holds would not work.

After a week of such drama culminating in Rudd’s resignation, MPs have no idea what will unfold next.” We simply have to wait and verify what the latest genius intentions are from No 10 ,” said a elderly Labour figure.” If they are as ruinous as those they tried over the last few days, I don’t see how he was able to survive.

” But what do I know? What does anyone know ?”


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