Theresa May turned down Downing Street when her party colleagues put her “deal” over the parliamentary hurdles, she pledged Wednesday evening in a special group meeting. “Back me or sack me” became “back me and sack me”. But not even that seems to help. Although several critics of the withdrawal agreement responded in the desired manner and, like Boris Johnson, the resistance to the exit agreement – but not all. At least twenty members – they now call themselves “the Spartans” – could not be softened by May’s ultimate sacrifice. “I would not vote if someone puts a gun in my mouth,” said Mark Francois on Thursday.
Those who were not even in the room without whom May has no majority, the ten members of Northern Ireland DUP, which tolerate the conservative minority government for almost two years. It was Arlene Foster, the DUP chief from Belfast, who reduced May’s chances of success in the evening. She expressed her regret and said that she could not support the treaty as long as it contained the Northern Ireland backstop. This brought the pendulum, which had swung towards ratification in the hours before, to a stop before swinging back slowly. In the morning, the attitude of various Brexiteers hardened again. Former Brexit minister Dominic Raab called on the government to once again negotiate the “backstop” with the European Union. Jacob Ress-Mogg, who had already signaled a refusal, now said that this only applies in the event that the DUP is on board.
For many it came as a surprise, then Andrea Leadsom, who as the “Leader of the House” determines the parliamentary agenda for the government, announced at noon in the House of Commons to once again debate the withdrawal agreement this Friday. Members and commentators were uncertain for a while about whether Leadsom had brought the Meaningful Vote 3 – the formal vote on the treaty with the EU – onto the agenda. The only thing that was clear was that the unclear procedure was linked to the requirements of Speaker John Bercow, who on Wednesday reminded him that he would accept only a “substantially different” bill.