HOW times change. Ten years ago, it was the Conservative Party’s annual conference that was cut short by the then Labour government’s response to the global banking meltdown. Now it is this week’s Labour conference which is playing second fiddle to today’s Cabinet meeting on the current state of the Brexit negotiations.
The importance of this crisis meeting cannot be overstated. For, unless the Cabinet presents an united front after Theresa May was rebuffed by EU leaders in Salzburg, the Prime Minister’s position – already perilous – will be weakened further. And, while Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab did, in fairness, try to diffuse some of the tension by appealing to colleagues to “hold our nerve, keep our cool and continue to negotiate (with the EU) in good faith”, many in the Tory party’s upper echelons are still intent on doing the precise opposite.
They appear, judging by various well-sourced reports, to be obsessing over the Tory leadership, a second Brexit referendum or a snap election when the country at large wants the warring factions to pull together and ensure Britain gets the best possible deal with the EU.
However, while Mr Raab is one of the Government’s more polished performers, the Minister – as a Brexiteer – couldn’t resist a swipe at the Remain-supporting Philip Hammond over the Chancellor’s foreboding about a no-deal Brexit. And then there’s Mr Raab’s predecessor, David Davis, who was reunited at the weekend with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage as their ‘Leave means Leave’ campaign intensifies. They still make Brexit sound so straightforward when it clearly is not.
Yet, while Mrs May will try to stick to her guns, voters do now have the right to know the constitutional position if MPs vote down any agreement negotiated by the PM – or the ‘no deal’ proposition. After all, it is this country’s future which is on the line.