A DMA Brexit special: 16 November | DMA

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A DMA Brexit special: 16 November


Today started as tenuously as yesterday. Environment Secretary Michael Gove – whose support is a crucial barometer of the Prime Minister’s strength – declined to take her up on her offer of becoming Brexit secretary.

Things looked bad. This likely meant he would resign sooner or later. As Theresa May ventured to LBC to do a live phone-in with the general public, her foundations looked shaky. After some tough questioning, she emerged from the interview with prospects looking no worse or better than they had before.

More bad news followed. Tory Whip, Julian Lewis, called on conservative MPs to cancel their constituency plans and to stay in Westminster. More talks of no-confidence letters being submitted meant a leadership challenge seemed imminent.

Then the tides began to turn. Michael Gove emerged from his office to say that he fully supported the Prime Minister. Later, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox announced he had ‘full confidence’ in Theresa May and her plan.

Steve Baker, the deputy leader of the European Research Group (the hard-Brexit supporting wing of the conservative party) was now backing down on his suggestion that the adequate number of no-confidence letters had now been sent and that MPs should prepare for a leadership challenge.

Baker continues to have been proven wrong. In spite of the 22 public letters of no-confidence (plus the unannounced number of secret letters) that have been sent, Theresa May clings on. Now, those who want a leadership challenge suggest it will likely come next week. However, they seemed awfully sure that they would get it today, so whether they genuinely think this or it’s a last-ditched attempt at rounding up support for their cause is unclear.

The afternoon has been relatively quiet. The Prime Minister has just appointed former Home Secretary Amber Rudd back to her cabinet as Esther McVey’s replacement as Work and Pensions Secretary. The relatively unknown former health minister, Steven Barclay, has been appointed the new Brexit Secretary. The government appears to be fortifying and re-grouping.

For now, there is silence. The question remains: is it all over, or is this just the eye of the storm?

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