The failure of any Brexit option to wield a majority in Monday’s indicative votes appears to have eased the pressure on No. 10. Ministers had been expecting five hours of meetings today but the first cabinet has been delayed and there is an expectation that the meeting will not run on so long. One minister points out that there is now less pressure on the government to come up with an immediate decision on whether to pursue a softer Brexit, to attempt a no-deal Brexit or to go to the polls if May’s deal fails a fourth time.
That’s not to say today’s meeting will be a walk in the park. I understand the pre-reading material includes background for decisions that need to be taken soon regarding no-deal preparations. It includes the next steps to introduce direct rule in Northern Ireland under a no-deal Brexit. There are also decisions relating to the Ministry of Defence and British troops – that could be ordered back to the UK to help in the aftermath of a no-deal Brexit.
It’s well known that the cabinet is divided between those who think a softer Brexit is the way forward as a no-deal Brexit is unfathomable, and those who plump for the latter. Last night’s votes haven’t advanced either position particularly. However, there are still some ministers who will push for May to move closer to a customs union (which was three votes short of a majority last night), arguing that it is the only way she can revamp her deal and get it over the line.