This is the moment that many insiders and commentators in and around Westminster have been waiting for. Theresa May has a drafted deal, but large parts of her Cabinet can’t accept it and persuading Parliament to do so seems like an impossible task, with barely any vocally supporting the deal and the arithmetic of getting it through now not even worth considering. One of the most important people in Westminster is now the Chief Whip, Julian Smith. I any support is to be assured, an extensive and effective campaign of garnering support for the PM is needed.
Yesterday, Theresa May looked almost triumphant as she prepared to reveal the Withdrawal Agreement. In less than 24 hours that has all changed. The resignation of Dominic Raab was never seen as particularly unexpected, but the fact he has gone so soon into the job shows a visible discontent at the way the negotiations were handled and the amount of leverage he had over the outcome. May’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins has been seen as the most powerful figure, drawing up the Chequers plan and devolving most power to the corridors of No10 and the Cabinet Office than to the Brexit supporting ministers. Both of the latter have now resigned. The immediate threat to the Prime Minister is that the European Research Group has now officially decided to advise Tory MPs to send in their letters to Graham Brady, calling for a no-confidence vote. The timing is impeccable, as large numbers of MPs are struggling to see how they could manage to persuade themselves and others to vote for the choice put before them. As Ken Clarke has pointed out, Theresa May may well want to appeal to soft Brexiteers in her own party and among potential Labour rebels to have any chance of getting her deal through.
However you look at this current situation, on thing is clear and unavoidable. We are entering the stage of unprecedented leadership ambitions, political gambling and potentially some high level regicide. Hold on to your seats.