Mohammed Amin: If there is a second referendum, no deal must be kept off the ballot paper

It would be even more irresponsible than David Cameron putting an undefined “Leave the EU” option on the 2016 ballot paper.

Mohammed Amin MBE is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum. He is writing in a personal capacity.

After long negotiation, Theresa May has agreed with the EU-27 a deal comprising a legally binding departure treaty setting out the terms for the UK leaving the EU plus a non-binding political declaration regarding the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

As well as covering the strictly required terms of departure, the draft departure treaty also contains forward-looking sections covering the Northern Ireland backstop to ensure there is no hard border in Ireland and a UK wide backstop with customs arrangements to avoid an internal goods border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK if the Northern Ireland backstop ever needs to be applied.

The government’s negotiated deal is widely unpopular, and many Brexiteers are hankering for a “No deal Brexit.” The tide seems to be turning inexorably towards Parliament seeking a referendum to ask the people what should happen next.

Which referendums merit respect?

My 2017 Conservative Home article “Why referendums are almost always a bad idea” explained the difference between two kinds of referendums:

  1. Referendums where one of the choices is “A pig in a poke”
  2. Referendums offering a choice between the status quo and a completely specified alternative

The 2011 Alternative Vote referendum was an example of a category (2) referendum. Unfortunately, the 2016 European Union membership referendum was a category (1) referendum.

17 million Leave voters were each able to vote for their personal vision of an idealised Brexit, unconstrained by the reality of what type of Brexit could actually be achieved if Leave won.

This difference between the two types of referendum is at the heart of my reasons for respecting the 2011 referendum, but not respecting the 2016 referendum.

What does a “No deal Brexit” look like?

No deal means no deal. There would be no separation agreement with the EU-27. How does one then divide up EU assets and liabilities including pension liabilities? The inevitable result would be international lawsuits, just like domestic divorces end up in court when the parting couple cannot agree a deal.

In such circumstances, the EU-27 would want to “nail the UK to the floor.” That is what I would do if I were representing the EU-27 and if the UK had walked away from its treaty obligations without a separation agreement.

I looked at this kind of world in my 2016 Conservative Home piece “Ultra-hard Brexit – a mathematical perspective.” At its most brutal, no planes would fly between the UK and the EU-27, and no goods would move by sea. This would be very harmful to the EU-27; the disappearance of all of their exports to the UK could reduce their GDP by around three per cent. However, for the UK the consequences would be catastrophic with an overnight reduction in GDP of around 10 per cent. When divorcing couples start throwing plates at each other, they have ceased to care how much damage they do to themselves; what matters is the damage they do to the other.

When ardent Brexiteers talk about a “No deal Brexit”, they do not mean the above.

Instead, they visualise a fantasy of the UK leaving the EU without the Government’s negotiated departure deal, paying nothing to the EU, but the EU-27 falling over themselves to give the UK everything that they declined to give May in her two years of negotiations.

At its heart, they have an extreme illusion about the relative negotiating power of the UK and the EU-27. For some of them, it is not even the 1950s but rather the 1850s when Britain really was the world’s dominant superpower; and could resolve minor problems overseas by “sending a gunboat.”

The second referendum question

I do not really want a second referendum. As I said earlier this year in “Brexit and the duty of every Parliamentarian”, if MPs consider that instructing the Government to remain within the EU by withdrawing the UK’s Article 50 notice is preferable to approving the Government’s departure deal, then it is their duty to do precisely that.

However, if Parliament is unwilling to carry out the above duty, and decides instead to hold a second referendum, then it must be a category (2) referendum.

The two defined choices should be:

  1. Leave the EU on the basis of the Government’s negotiated draft departure treaty plus political declaration.
  2. Remain in the EU.

Putting an undefined “No deal Brexit” on the ballot paper would be even more irresponsible than David Cameron putting an undefined “Leave the EU” option on the 2016 ballot paper. It would risk voters visualising their own personal fantasy “No deal Brexit” and then voting for that, leaving the Government to sort out a 2019 act of self-harm even greater than the 2016 act of self-harm which is what David Cameron’s referendum result constituted. Nothing should go onto a second referendum ballot paper unless it has been negotiated with the EU-27 and written down as implementable text, as Theresa May’s withdrawal deal has been.

Nick Hargrave: The Conservative split is coming. Indeed, it is already here. Unless…

Perhaps, against all the odds, we will find a way of muddling through and preserve our broad church for a time after the era of Brexit has passed.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser, where he worked under both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works at Portland, the communications consultancy.

My career in backroom politics began in an institution called the Conservative Research Department. Depending on how charitable your view of professional politics is, CRD can either be viewed as the meritocratic engine room of the Tory machine that in the past century has produced more Cabinet ministers than any public school or Oxbridge college; or it can be seen as an elitist playground of Westminster bubblery that shows how remote the mindset of SW1 is from people in the country at large.

Fortunately, that is not up for debate in this column. The reason I mention it is because its interview process is reflective of the tension that sits at the heart of the Conservative Party. The way in which its leading participants react to this tension will determine whether it continues to exist in its current form.

The first question every CRD interviewee is asked upon sitting down is the immortal line: ‘why are you a Conservative’?’ As someone who interviewed more potential staffers over the years than I care to remember, it is a question with the capacity to flummox even the most articulate applicant and has done so throughout the ages.

It’s a brilliant interview question because there is no perfect answer. There are some unacceptable answers that will meet with a stony reception such as that enterprise should not exist or that the concept of a British nation is entirely without merit. But other than that, the tent is broad and the floor is yours. Acceptable answers include but are not limited to: a belief in personal freedom and liberty; a general love for the nation, its institutions and traditions; backing business and free enterprise; low taxes; wanting government to get out of the way; thinking government should focus its energy on programmes that give people the opportunity to make the most of their talents; aspiration; social mobility; the family; a hand up but not a hand out; supporting our armed forces; localism and community; a deep scepticism to the bureaucracy of the European Union and many more things besides.

The truth is this: conservatism is really a disposition rather than an ideology. It is a complicated web of values rooted in the free market and nation state that have fused together as a product of our national history, British level-headedness, a sense that getting things done in Government beats the pompous purity of Opposition – reinforced and helped along by the electoral system of first past the post. If the delicate web of values can be condensed into a simple sentence it is only this: a belief that change is inevitable and often beneficial but it must be managed organically and in accordance with the traditions of the country.

That at least would have been the historic definition. But the United Kingdom’s place with the European Union has gnawed away at this sense of unity for as long as I have been alive. It is the perfect juxtaposition of the competing values of national identity and economic security. And it’s been given new life by a worldwide reassessment of capitalism and nationalism in the displacing effects of a global market, a new era of digital discourse where the old give and take seems irrelevant – and David Cameron’s decision to get out of a political bind in 2013 by bringing this question to a head in a referendum. All despite the fact that our country is constitutionally ill-equipped to deal with direct democracy.

But we are where we are, the genie is out of the bottle and there is no point pretending that a second referendum will make this go away. The people are boss; they voted for Britain to leave the European Union and it must be implemented. We should also accept that, despite the best will in the world and no matter what clever solution is arrived at in the next few months, the debate about Brexit isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

There is no magical answer – whether compromise or extreme – that will suddenly make the country think this is dispatched and done. The only thing that could conceivably change the national conversation any time soon is a new arc of politics around a global recession, a global security incident or something else out of left-field and probably deeply unpleasant; and as corrosive and boring as Brexit is to our political culture, I would take it any day over those options.

Once you accept this premise, the path ahead for the Conservative Party becomes a little clearer. There are only three ways to go on the road ahead.

We can have a ‘soft split’, more likely if the Deal does somehow gets passed. We morph after March into an explicitly protectionist and nationalist party as a form of catharsis to what the then previous Prime Minister, Theresa May, agreed. This will be a popular position in some parts of Britain and it is where the bulk of our membership is. But it has little future in our capital city, other metropolitan areas and – in my view at least – it will provide diminishing returns over time with the voters of tomorrow. This scenario inevitably sees us becoming the ‘We Shouldn’t Have Signed the Deal’ party. There are many branching histories to this, but I think most of them end up with a Labour Government by 2022.

We can have a ‘hard split’ where the Conservative Party becomes separate political entities over Brexit-defined lines; the parliamentary flux over the next few weeks makes this a possible outcome. Dispassionately, if the alternative is chaos, there might merit to this proposal if the moderate Conservative faction were to find common cause with the moderate Labour one to deliver an orderly Brexit . But, again, the only way it doesn’t lead to a hard-left Jeremy Corbyn Government is if tribal loyalties were to be left behind on both sides. I am yet to be convinced.

Or, against all the odds, we find a way of muddling through and preserve our broad church for a time after the historical era of Brexit has passed (with an inevitable peeling off of some MPs on the extremes). To do this, the party can only do one thing. It has to come to its senses and decide an imperfect compromise – whether the PM’s current deal or the Norway option as a backup – is the best long-term bet for our political family and national unity. You would need a leader of exceptional political skill to make this argument given where we have got to now. Any takers?

Drained of authority? Yes. Rudderless? Certainly. Humiliated? Absolutely. But May’s very weakness is becoming a strange strength.

She looks increasingly like the captive of pro-Remain cross-party MPs working together against the pro-Leave referendum mandate.

  • Good news for Julian Smith.  The essence of the Grieve amendment is that it opens up a path to No Brexit.  Very well, the Chief Whip may be tempted to think.  If pro-Leave MPs believe they have a choice between a Grieve-led No Brexit and Theresa May’s flawed deal, they will vote for the latter next Tuesday.  Conspiracy theorists yesterday evening were suggesting that this reasoning explains why loyalists such as Damian Green and Oliver Letwin voted against the Government and for the amendment.
  • But hang on. There’s bad news for Smith.  Steve Baker and the ERG leadership are having none of it.  Let Grieve table and pass as many motions as he likes, they were arguing yesterday: the Government cannot be mandated by motions.  The Prime Minister can and should tell the Remainers to bog off if necessary.  All she and her government need to do is to hang on until March 29, and Brexit will be duly delivered.  So the ERG and other Brexiteers will vote against the Government next week. Smith’s cunning plan won’t work.
  • And there is worse news for him, too.  Perhaps the Grieve amendment will have an effect at the margins on some Leavers.  But Remainers now have an incentive to vote against May next week: to prod the Commons towards No Brexit.  And the ERG and other Leavers have an incentive, too: to keep the pressure up on May for No Deal, if necessary.  So Smith’s clever plan is in danger not only of not working; it threatens to boomerang back to smack the Whips Office in the jaw.
  • But wait. Yes, there’s good news for the Chief Whip after all.  Even if they band together to vote down May’s deal next Tuesday, the aims of the Remainers and Leavers will be different.  In a nutshell, the drift of the Prime Minister’s Brexit policy, over two and a half years, has been from a Nick Timothy-crafted position with clear red lines…through Chequers and the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson…to the breaking of those lines over Northern Ireland, transition and the backstop.  The policy is softer than it was.
  • So it is now clearly in the interests of the Remainers to keep May in place.  The lesson that Grieve and company will draw from yesterday is: keep pushing.  Working with Labour and other opposition parties, they can use the pro-Remain sympathies of the Commons to their advantage.  A change of leader would probably mean a new Brexiteer Prime Minister, such as Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab or even David Davis, armed with a mandate to defy No Brexit and deliver No Deal. Why would they want that?
  • And it is not clear that Leavers on the Conservative benches have the numbers to depose her.  Jacob Rees-Mogg and Baker couldn’t find them last month.  It might be that, in the wake of a defeat for May next week, Brexiteers decide that enough is enough, and that elusive total of 48 letters is reached then – or even before.  None the less, it isn’t evident that they have enough support to topple May in a confidence ballot (though Mark Harper’s defection from the loyalist ranks may be a sign that her days are numbered).
  • The swing voters are, as ever, the J.Alfred Prufrocks of the backbenches.  According to our count, 181 Conservative MPs voted Remain in 2016, and 129 voted Leave.  Obviously, the Commons has changed a bit since then.  But the average Tory MP is a soft Remainer or moderate Leaver – perhaps with an eye to the Norway option being pushed by some of Grieve’s supporters yesterday.  (Indeed, his amendment can be seen as a pincer movement on the Prime Minister by a makeshift alliance of Remainers and Norwegians.)
  • What stirs more fear in those backbenchers – No Deal or No Brexit? Do they dread most the undoubted difficulties of No Deal, leading to a collapse of confidence in the Government, the loss of their seats, and a Corbyn-led Government – perhaps sooner rather than later?  Or do they fear No Brexit more – and the revenge of a turbulent electorate, cheated of the prize it voted for, which sends the Conservatives the way of the old Christian Democrats in Italy?  There is no away of knowing.
  • At any rate, May’s very weakness is now a strange strength.  Voted guilty of contempt of Parliament; beaten three times yesterday (the first time a government has been so for some 40 years); staring down the barrel of defeat next week, she now leads the weakest government in modern times.  But this very vulnerability is becoming a strange source of strength – or survival, at any rate.  She hangs on because her party can’t agree on a replacement.  Because while it doesn’t like her plan, it can’t settle on an alternative.
  • Could the Cabinet oust her next week?  Perhaps.  But, as recent events have shown, a Prime Minister can impose a plan on a Cabinet that it doesn’t much care for.  She controls its meetings, proceedings and minutes.  Each of her Ministers has their own ambitions and agendas: they do not find it easy to act in concert.  She has ridden out the resignations of two Brexit Secretaries, a Foreign Secretary and a Work and Pensions Ministers.  And called the bluff of the pizza gang of five Cabinet Leavers.
  • Might she resign if beaten next week?  Maybe.  But if she quits as Party leader, she will open the door to a Brexiteer as her replacement.  And it is not clear whether she could simply resign as Prime Minister.  That would put the Queen in a difficult position.  Would the latter then send for, say, David Lidington, or for Jeremy Corbyn and, in either case, on what basis?  Any such move would be resisted by the Palace.  In any event, Prime Ministers tend not to resign.  The last to go willingly was Harold Wilson, and he was ill.
  • So can May go on…and on…and on? Almost certainly not.  Leavers are losing patience with her.  Remainers are using her.  Any dash from cover risks her swift removal – whatever tactical alliances may form to prop her up temporarily.  A tilt to Norway, No Brexit or No Deal risks stirring up those parts of the Parliamentary Party opposed to all three.  The only glimmer of good news comes from her Party’s right – and the departure of Nigel Farage from a UKIP lurching wildly to the fringes (though she has lost the DUP).
  • Finally, ponder the shape of events.  Voters were narrowly for Leave in 2016.  The Commons is still for Remain: perhaps a sixth of it is for Brexit by conviction rather than calculation.  And the long and short of it is that the more time passes – and the deeper the Government’s crisis becomes – the less MPs pay even lip-service to the biggest event in our electoral history.  The tide in Parliament is for Remain.  It moves slowly – even glacially.  But it is carrying the Prime Minister with it.

Chloe Westley: If the Conservatives bow to May’s betrayal of the referendum result, they will be cursed for a generation

By refusing to consider the option of leaving without a deal, Conservative Ministers are essentially admitting defeat. And we deserve better than a defeatist political class.

Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Brexit has been blamed on so many things – on the ignorance of voters, on words on the side of a bus…even on the Russians! On and after June 24th 2016, there were many who were looking for someone, anyone, to blame.

But there wouldn’t have even been a referendum, or indeed a vote to leave, if politicians hadn’t signed us up to this disastrous political union in the first place.

When Edward Heath signed Britain up to the European Economic Community (EEC), there was no referendum. It was only years later that the public were asked their opinion. When John Major handed over more powers to Brussels by signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, establishing an entrenched political union, there was no referendum. When Gordon Brown surrendered even more sovereignty to Brussels by signing the Lisbon Treaty, there was no referendum.

These treaties were agreed by politicians behind closed doors, without the consent of the people. Now that the British people have finally had a say on Britain’s membership of the European Union, there are some politicians who are intent on destroying any hopes of bringing that sovereignty back to the UK. In order to justify this, they’re telling voters that it’s just too hard to untangle Britain from these EU institutions. But when they say that it isn’t possible to leave the EU without keeping a foot in the door, what they really mean is: they don’t us to leave at all.

When the overwhelming majority of MPs voted to have a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, I’m sure many would have simply assumed that the people would behave like good citizens, and vote how the political establishment expected. When that turned out not to be the case, many flocked immediately to either conspiracy theories or dismissive snobbery.

I can certainly understand why it would make pro-Remain MPs feel better about themselves by disregarding 17.4 million voters as misinformed or uneducated. It’s a lot easier than having to admit to being out of touch with the general public. But it’s unworthy of elected representatives and damaging to our civil discourse.

Instead of accepting that the general public looked at the evidence and made a balanced decision that Britain is better off outside the EU, we’ve seen several politicians – including some in the Conservative Party – berate voters as though they are naughty school children who didn’t do their homework. For the most part, leavers have accepted this gracefully. They’ve watched many in the political class attack their intelligence, their right to vote, their integrity, and even celebrate the passing of older leave voters.

Up until now, many in the silent majority have been quiet, patiently waiting for the Government to do what it said it would do, and deliver on the referendum result. But now that the Prime Minister has returned with a deal makes Britain a satellite state of the European Union, the mood is starting to shift.

Make no mistake. If the Conservatives fail keep the promises they made at the last general election, it will be a defining black mark against the Party’s name for a generation. Before the referendum, many people already feared that the political system was geared against them, and that politicians were ignorant of their concerns. Those Tory MPs advocating for a second referendum are proving them right.

Politicians shouldn’t threaten to stop Brexit in the event of a no deal scenario. We all know this deal is terrible, and that it doesn’t deliver Brexit. By refusing to consider the option of leaving without a deal, Conservative Ministers are essentially admitting defeat. The British people deserve better than a defeatist political class. We often hear of the dangers of ‘crashing out’ without a deal – but these are the exact same arguments that were made during the referendum.

Instead of betraying the electorate, the Government should look to the opportunities of leaving on WTO terms.  If we leave on a no deal Brexit we can immediately begin to negotiate free trade deals around the world; we can take advantage of the growing markets in Asia and America.

We can take back control of our laws, borders, money, fisheries and trade immediately. We won’t have to be locked into European defence structures, or be ruled by technocrats. And we won’t have to pay that £40 billion Brexit bill, nor £20 billion or so in EU contribution fees for the next two years. That’s money that can be invested immediately in the things that matter to British taxpayers, as well as help to fund tax cuts for families and businesses to boost economic growth.

Politicians handed over sovereignty to Brussels without the consent of the British people. It’s not good enough for them to now shrug their shoulders and say that Brexit is just too difficult.  Yes, Britain can thrive independently outside the EU. But if we fail to leave properly, it will not be because Brexit is impossible, but because our politicians have failed us again.

Joel Davidson and Amir Sadjady: Treat claims of treason with disdain. As Leavers, we wholeheartedly back this agreement. Here’s why.

By remaining in a customs arrangement which retains high standards and open access, it will be good for London – and the rest of the country too.

Joel Davidson is a former councillor in Brent and was a London Assembly candidate in 2016. Amir Sadjady is a Conservative activist in Hammersmith.

We both campaigned enthusiastically for Vote Leave in London, and were delighted to see the real people’s vote, back in 2016, deliver a clear result that the UK wished to leave the European Union.

Since then, our Prime Minister has been buffeted by an extraordinary array of forces determined to scupper her: the bad faith of the EU, the even worse faith of the Labour Party leadership, and shrill celebrities determined to disparage anyone who voted Leave as little Englanders or, even worse, as closet racists. Despite all these obstructions, we now have a deal with the EU which does indeed – perhaps miraculously – put the UK on the brink of leaving the European Union, and regaining sovereignty in a huge swathe of areas.

We are consequently alarmed at some of the tropes being banded about by some hard Brexiteers, who seem completely opposed to any deal at all  One phrase which really sticks in the throat is that the Government is “betraying the 17.4 million voters who wanted to leave”. This is disingenuous at best, and we feel the need to challenge it here.

As we say, were amongst those 17.4 million voters who delivered the victory for Leave, with every vote carrying equal weight, and without these voters, the UK would be firmly inside the European Union and en route to fully joining a federal Europe.

But as it is, we now stand on the brink of a far looser relationship with the EU, with close trading links but an ending of  political union. We are confident that even supposedly ‘Remainiac’ London (where more people voted Leave in 2016 than those who had the misfortune of voting for Sadiq Khan) will be comfortable with this settlement.

For London, in particular, this deal will undoubtedly be beneficial, since businesses can be guaranteed that their current trading arrangements in goods with Europe will remain unaffected. There is tacit acknowledgement in this arrangement that a customs deal with Europe that maintains the highest European standards and gives British business access to European markets on an equal footing will unambiguously be good for business across the country.

This is another good reason for London Conservatives to get behind the deal: our businesses in London are high quality, and so we can only benefit from selling to our largest trading partner and closest neighbour in a completely unhindered way. So instead of wasting time chasing such rainbow as a second referendum, we London Conservatives should show that ours is the pragmatic party of business, and back this deal for the benefit of London’s economy.

We should also be taking Sadiq Khan to task for his complete no-show on this issue. Ever the world statesman in his own head, he has spent much of the last few months swanning around Brussels, trying to push to overturn Brexit whilst his city is submerged in a complete breakdown of law and order and his mismanagement of Crossrail leaves London’s economy imperilled.

Against all odds, the Prime Minister has produced a Withdrawal Agreement that very much ensures that “London Is Open” (to the chagrin of many in the ERG), so any competent, reasonable, pro-business mayor should be very happy with it. Not so Mayor Khan: his cynical tactics throughout the last two and a half years merely expose him again for the deeply partisan Labour apparatchik who enthusiastically backed Jeremy Corbyn in his infamous original winning leadership campaign.

The truth of Khan’s record is that he has no interest in helping business. If he did, he would have done something about the misery and economic chaos of the 14 tube strikes so far under his mayoralty. If he cared about helping small businesses, he would be acting to curb the breakdown of law and order on London’s streets, and would be taking action to clean up and rejuvenate London’s high streets. But he always prefers self-serving and self-written press releases to real action for Londoners.

To back up our view, we attended the Business Show 2018 recently at London’s ExCel, and had the pleasure of speaking to a wide range of business owners, of all sizes and across a range of sectors.  You can see the video we made about our visit here. We were struck by the near -nanimous consensus that emerged: any ambitious business sees maintaining the closest possible trading links with Europe as an unmitigated positive. Even smaller businesses that do not trade directly with Europe may be keen to in the future, and in the B2B sector, suppliers to large multinationals are massively impacted by the success of their main customers. By remaining in a customs arrangement with Europe which retains high standards and open access, the Government is giving British businesses of all sizes the ability to have greater control over its expansion plans.

The Prime Minister’s deal undoubtedly delivers for business, as well as on the referendum result which soft Leavers were crucial in determining. We see amidst the overwhelming and unrelenting media interest in all things Brexit a real opportunity for pro-business London Conservatives to regain our reputation in London as the party of competence and commerce by enthusiastically backing this deal in London and the South East.

David Davies: I voted and campaigned for Leave. But here’s why I’m supporting May’s Brexit plan.

Opposing this proposal serves only to help those who wish to undermin eour desire to respect the referendum result. It is only by being united that we can fight them off.

David Davies is Chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Monmouth.

Ever since I entered Parliament in 2005, I have passionately and sincerely campaigned for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Back in 2011, long before it became policy, I joined the Parliamentary rebellion to support a referendum on the issue.

Immediately after the referendum was announced, I began my daily campaign for Leave, both in my constituency and across the UK. I have knocked on countless doors and addressed many meetings in aid of this cause. So I do not think anyone can say I have not done my bit for Brexit.

It is precisely because of my longstanding support for Brexit that I will be backing the deal proposed by Theresa May.  It is not perfect, and there are many things I would like to have seen done differently in the negotiations. The Government should have begun planning earlier for no deal ,and made clear our willingness to follow this path if necessary. This would undoubtedly have increased our leverage in the negotiations.

And, there are areas where I will seek further reassurance. Not least, that no deal planning continues so that we maintain our ability to walk away if we have to.  But all of us have to deal with where we are now – with the circumstances in front of us.

This deal will take us out of the EU on 29th March 2019, as planned. Not as far out as I or many of my colleagues would like, but out nonetheless. And once we are out, there is no returning.

Franklin D Roosevelt famously asked people to ‘judge him by the enemies he made’. The Prime Minister would do well to ask the Conservative Party to do the same when it comes to this deal.

It is telling that some of the most vehement opponents of the deal are longstanding Remainers, who are explicit about their desire to overturn the referendum result. And, of course, the entire Labour frontbench, which smells an opportunity to try and remove the Conservative Government from office and usher in a Marxist one.

If this was truly as bad a Brexit as many claim, it is hard to see why those groups are working so hard to defeat it. Ultimately, their aim is for Brexit to fail. The reason they are working so hard to stop this deal is because they know that, if it is passed and we do leave in March next year, there is no going back.

After working and campaigning so hard for Brexit, I cannot understand why my colleagues would rather walk through the lobbies with those who have spent the past years trying to thwart them. Surely they can see doing as much would only play into their hands.

Many of my colleagues believe that if this deal is voted down, it will lead to us getting a better deal, with a cleaner break from the EU or just to no deal at all. But, with the greatest respect to them, there are no guarantees. It is just as likely, and possibly more likely, that we will end up locked into the Customs Union and Single Market permanently or, even worse, that we do not leave at all.

Lining up against this deal fundamentally risks what we have all worked so hard to deliver. Ultimately, it only serves to help those who wish to undermine our position and our desire to respect the result of the referendum. It is only by being united that we can fight them off.

This has been shown through the recent history of the Conservative Party. I fought my first general election in 1997. And, as with many of our candidates that year, I was resoundingly beaten. Why? Because our party had spent the past four years tearing chunks out of each other over Europe. The public have always taken a dim view of such division and self-interest. They will do so again. In the end, they simply want us to get on with it.

There is undoubtedly more work to be done over the coming weeks and months – even years. But this deal allows us to end the free movement of people, end our contributions to the EU budget, end our membership of the Common Agricultural Policy, take back control of our waters by ending the Common Fisheries Policy and have the ability to strike our own trade deals for the first time in over 40 years. Most of all ,it allows us to leave the European Union.

The honest truth for those of us that have long supported Brexit is that if this deal had been offered to us before the referendum, we would have gratefully grabbed it with both hands. We should all do so now.

Our survey. Seven out of ten Party member respondents oppose the draft Brexit deal.

The finding suggests that she will have an uphill struggle to sell it to them, just as she did over Chequers.

Last month, 68 per cent of respondents to our survey wanted a Canada Plus Plus Plus-type Brexit, or else no deal at all – in other words, a quite hard to very hard Brexit.

And this month, we have 72 per cent against the Prime Minister’s draft deal and 23 per cent for it.

In other words, the bulk of our Party member panel respondents want a hardish or clean Brexit, and see Theresa May’s draft deal as not delivering it – a view that many will have taken without reading the best part of 600 pages of which it consists.

But there you go.  It’s salutory to look back to our final survey before the EU referendum, which showed 71 per cent of respondents either definitely for Leave or leaning to Leave, and 27 per cent either definitely for Remain or leaning to Remain.

What seems to have happened over time is that a very big slice of those Tory activists who voted Leave have solidified behind the clean or hardish Brexit that they probably always favoured in the first place.

It will be claimed that there is more support for the Prime Minister’s draft deal among Party members than this finding suggests, to which we make three responses.

First, the survey was opened on Thursday morning, and most responses arrived before May’s Commons statement and press conference of later that day, which might have made a difference at the margin.  And, certainly, views may change.

Second, this is the much same panel that swung behind May’s joint report agreement of last December by 73 per cent to 22 per cent.  It has not been reflexively hostile to everything she has done in the Brexit negotiations.

Finally, the survey results tend to end up in the same ball park as YouGov’s polls of party members, which are infrequent, but we regard as the gold standard.  After all, theirs are opinion polls and ours is a self-selecting survey.

That said, the survey has a strong record, and the message that this result sends to Downing Street is: polls suggest that voters haven’t swung behind your deal, and seven out of ten Party members oppose it.

May’s Deal 1) Andrew Feldman – Party members must back it and her. Let’s not give Corbyn the crisis he craves.

If he can’t get an early election, he would take a disorderly departure from the EU, leading to a recession – and to victory at a later date.

Andrew Feldman is a former Chairman of the Conservative Party.

In recent months, I have spent time talking to business leaders in the UK and around the world. They all have two questions for me. Is there going to be a Brexit deal? Is there a chance that Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister? My reply is always the same. That those two questions are inextricably linked.

If there is a sensible deal, then it is likely that the UK will enjoy an economic boost, releasing pent-up investment from a period of deep uncertainty. Businesses based here would stop sitting on their hands and commit to the new factories, warehouses and capital projects that we need. Investors abroad would once again feel confident that the UK was ‘open for business’, and would seek out the immense opportunities that we offer.

If this happens, the prospects of Corbyn being elected recede dramatically. Improving economic growth and confidence would facilitate continuing high levels of employment, wage growth and investment in public services. The Conservatives would secure their hard-won reputation for responsible government, fiscal prudence and effective management of the economy.

On the other hand, if there is not a deal, and a chaotic exit from the EU, the picture will change dramatically. Businesses will not only sit on their hands, but may start to withdraw activity from the UK. Investment from abroad may be replaced by dramatic divestment. Now of course, over time things may settle down. But there will undoubtedly be a risk of serious economic dislocation – causing substantial job losses, slowing growth and curbing the ability to improve public services.

And of course, Corbyn and John McDonnell are desperate for that to happen – some kind of shock to the UK that can help to win them power. Ideally, they want to force an early general election, because the Conservatives can’t agree on a plan. Failing that, they would take a violent and disorderly departure from the EU, leading to a recession – and then to election victory at a later date.  Chaos and uncertainty are their route to power.

This is more than ruthless ambition; it is rooted in ideology. Karl Marx predicted the inevitable demise of capitalism as part of the great tide of history. Frustratingly for him, it never happened. Living in England until the end of his life, he marvelled at the ability of the British to adapt their system. To accommodate the needs and demands of their changing industrialised economy. His theory did not predict the peaceful emergence of the NHS or the welfare state. He died miserably ruminating over his unfinished sequel to Das Kapital.

The Marxists in Britain have been continually disappointed. They have lurked at the fringes of Labour politics for many years. Unfortunately, they have now entered the mainstream. They are waiting to seize their moment to impose their already discredited ideology on generations who have not experienced its horrors first hand.

It is the duty of the Conservative Party to stop this happening. A Corbyn-led Labour Government would be a disaster for this country. And although Brexit is undoubtedly a seismic event; there is no need to for it to lead to a Tsunami, destroying all before it. The Conservative Party has faced momentous moments before. The reaction has always been pragmatism. Evolution not revolution. Steadiness and deal-making.

In her speech in Birmingham, Theresa May reminded us of this legacy. She asked her Party to come together in the national interest to deliver a solution to the Brexit conundrum. To help her to thread the needle of respecting the democratic result of the referendum; of preserving our proud Union; of keeping the economy on track and business on side, and of finding a fair basis for trading with our close neighbours and allies.

We are leaving the EU: the referendum result must be respected. As with all marriages, it may end with sour words and slamming doors. But once the anger has subsided, we need to come together to work out the future, to protect the interests of the next generation. We need to be grown up enough to accept that although we are going through a divorce, we cannot just walk away from our responsibilities and move on. This can take time and involve ongoing obligations.

And as the Prime Minister reminded us, it is not just Conservatives who need to stand firm. Our friends in the DUP know what a Corbyn Government could mean. They know that his well-documented Republican sympathies would risk the break-up of the Union. He longs for a United Ireland with the same passion that he dislikes the United Kingdom.

So we need to make sure that we rally behind the Prime Minister and help her to deliver a sensible, measured deal. We need to do this to frustrate Corbyn and McDonnell. We need to do this in the national interest. And we need to do this to keep Marx spinning in his grave up in Highgate.

May’s choice today. The possibility of her Government collapsing soon…or the probability of it doing so now

The DUP hates the idea of Corbyn in Downing Street. But it will surely be unwilling to swallow the partition of the UK, as it sees it.

Imagine for a moment that today’s Cabinet rejects the draft Brexit deal negotiated by Sabine Weyand and Olly Robbins.  While there would still be time for an agreement to be reached later, both the UK and the EU would step up No Deal preparations. The timetable gives them no option to do otherwise.

Pressure for a second referendum in the Commons would increase.  The Government would be drawn into an accelerating conflict with those MPs who support one.  Their number would doubtless grow, including on the Conservative benches.  It is possible to believe that ways would be found to bring Commons business to a standstill, thus piling pressure on Theresa May for a second vote.  Hardline Remain-backing Conservative MPs might write en masse to Graham Brady demanding a confidence ballot on her leadership.

None the less, Jeremy Corbyn is clearly opposed to second vote, and the group of Tory MPs backing a second referendum remain small.  In short, the best betting is that, in these circumstances, the balance of probabilities is that the Government could make it through and deliver No Deal, for better or worse.

Readers will see where all this is heading.  The possibility of its collapse soon, in the unlikely event of the draft deal being rejected by Cabinet today, must be set against the probability of its collapse even sooner if Cabinet accepts the deal instead.  The DUP hates the idea of Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street as Prime Minister.  But if the alternative is to swallow the partition of the UK, as it sees it, under this Government then it is likely to exit its confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives, formally or informally.

ConservativeHome understands that this point will be made to the Prime Minister this afternoon.  The question at stake is not only whether the proposed deal is good for Britain and honours the referendum result.  It is also whether or not her Government survives with its majority intact.